Opinion: Things will be different in 2021 for racing

“What does 2021 look like for racing?” I’m often asked.

I can say we have a calendar for 2021 (we’re finalizing a few things), and it looks excellent! We have new events and old classics returning.

Joey Iuliano, ABRA president

“Yes … but what will it look like?” is usually the follow up question.

So, I check my Magic-8 Ball regularly for an answer, and it always says, “Reply hazy, try again later.” Truth be told, what things will look like in January 2021 is anyone’s best guess.

However, I can assure you racing won’t look the same as Spring 2020. We might see reduced field sizes, different event formats and restrictions on gatherings. Our primary concerns are rider and community safety – we don’t want anyone to get sick from our event or our events to be super spreaders.

One thing going for us is that outdoor transmission is very low: A review of 7,300 cases in China listed one
that occurred outdoors — a man who spoke to a COVID-19-positive friend. However, outdoor transmission isn’t
impossible — one review of 25,000 cases, which has not yet been peer reviewed, found 6% related to
some outdoor activity such as attending a soccer match or concert.

It’s also more than just being outside and the number of people you’re around. It also depends on the cases in the area. If cases are trending up, events could be canceled.

My Kingdom for Consistency!

Arizona’s response to the pandemic was anything but consistent — the state left it to cities and counties to decide how to respond.

City to city within the same county can be different. Some places are strictly adhering to the governor’s executive order on gathering sizes of less than 50. Some areas are granting exceptions depending on the health plan submitted. Some locations require masks, while others don’t.

“An event in Tucson might look different from an event in Pinal County or Phoenix.”

What does this mean for racing?

An event in Tucson might look different from an event in Pinal County or Phoenix. If Pima County requires masks for a time trial up Mt. Lemmon, then the permit is contingent upon the promoter enforcing that requirement.

If a city limits gatherings to 50, we might have to limit field sizes to ensure no more than 50 people are at a venue at any point. Health departments also reserve the right to pull permits if cases are trending up.

Promoters, and ABRA, have little power here. Health departments are the final say.

What is ABRA and USA Cycling doing?

USA Cycling has outlined some best practices for event promoters to follow. For example:

  • Masks required when not on the bike and by all event staff and volunteers
  • Providing handwashing stations and sanitizer
  • Spacing out bathrooms and other event services
  • Strongly encourage online registration only as well as digital waivers
  • Eliminating/reducing points of contact and off-bike gathering
  • Encouraging no-question refunds
  • Pre-event wellness check (temperature screening)

We’ll also work with promoters to develop back-up plans for their events in terms of formats and other safety requirements. Our goal is to establish a baseline of consistency in event management and best practices. However, to reiterate: the final say is the county or city health department.

The takeaway

Things will be different in 2021 for racing. We’ll see variations in formats and requirements.

Even events in January might look different from events in June. Please, don’t get mad at a promoter if an event is canceled. Our ask is for you to please be flexible, understanding and follow guidelines issued by events.

“Our ask is for you to please be flexible, understanding and follow guidelines issued by events.”

The continuation of our races depends on us all doing our part! In the meantime, mask up, wash your hands, limit your group of contacts, and keep the rubber side down!

Further reading

Over the past three weeks, ABRA circulated a survey among racers to see how and if COVID-19 impacted their desire to race.

Photos: Noa Toledo Arnon for Israel Start-Up Nation/Israel Cycling Academy