Cyclocross racing is making a return to the Valley. The Arizona Valley of the Sun CX Championship Race will be held Nov. 29 in Gilbert with health guidelines in place to help riders have a safe experience as they get back into the rhythm of bike racing.
Two events preceding the championship, set to be held on Nov. 8 and 15, were canceled to prevent inappropriate or unsafe behavior and to ensure that the final race runs smoothly and safely, said VOS CX race promoter Jeff Frost.
The championship race will institute strict guidelines, including no spectators, an online registration process, a limit of 50 people at the venue at one time, masks required until the start of the race, a limited field size of 15-20 racers at one time and a spaced-out start. Riders also are required to leave immediately after their race.
“People are pretty understanding that things are out of our control,” said Joey Iuliano, president of the Arizona Bicycle Racing Association. “The best we can do is provide guidelines and be flexible. We all have to adapt.”
Raring to race
After being nearly unable to race for the past seven months, Nov. 29 marks a big day for Arizona bike racers. For any athlete, the thrill of competing is an overwhelming rush of adrenaline, passion, fun, and camaraderie. Being absent from competitive sporting events has been a painful reality for athletes across the nation.
“This race is important to the racing community. People want to see that there’s a way we can safely host events in a good format,” Iuliano said.
Frost said is expecting roughly 100 racers to attend.
“Everyone is excited,” Frost said. “We’ve been cautious with our promotions for this race, sticking mainly to Facebook and word of mouth. It’s a small community.”
To slowly get back to normalcy, everyone must ease back into activities we once did, including
sports, Iuliano said. He said he hopes that the Valley of the Sun CX Championship race will set an example for races in the future. Although the event will look different, he noted that the energy will be there.
A test to ‘be adaptable’
Iuliano said that ABRA’s spring calendar is planned out for races, but the association will be taking it one race at a time. To host safe events, ABRA will track cases in the areas where races are being held.
“We have to watch numbers. We have to watch trends. One safe weekend doesn’t mean the same for the next in a different city,” Iuliano said. “Getting back into the swing of things is going to be a long process in any capacity. People need to be patient and flexible throughout these frustrating times.”
Frost said he hopes to add one more race between Thanksgiving and Christmas, depending on how the championship goes in Gilbert.
Although the vibe of the event will be different without spectators, Frost emphasized that this is
still a racing opportunity.
“The race is the same. Course design is driven by safety and its approach to test the ability of all
riders. COVID doesn’t affect that,” Frost said.
Iuliano’s advice to any athlete going through a hard time right now is to “be adaptable,” he said.
“It’s easy to get frustrated, but it’s out of our control,” Iuliano said. “It is your own job to control what you can by keeping your circles close and maintaining a safe distance from others. Keep your head up; it will eventually subside.”
Sarah Haber is a journalism student at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.