Another major cycling event planned for Durango in 2020 has been forced to reschedule.
The Denver Post Ride the Rockies Cycling Tour, eager to celebrate its 35th year, was set to bring 2,500 participants through Southwest Colorado from June 14-19. Because of COVID-19 and a mandate from Gov. Jared Polis to ban large gatherings of more than 250 people until after Labor Day on Sept. 7, Ride the Rockies organizers were forced to postpone the event.
Committed to the 2020 route, the event was rescheduled for June 13-18, 2021 with a start and finish in Durango.
“Every June, we look forward to having more than 2,000 riders come from around the world to explore the Colorado Rocky Mountains on bicycles,” tour director Deirdre Moynihan said in a news release. “To ensure the health and well-being of everyone involved, we have decided that postponement is the best course of action to take at this time. We do greatly appreciate your patience as we have been putting the plan into place. Ride The Rockies is a large, multi-day event, and it was important to work through our next steps with the many organizations, companies and communities involved.”
Ride the Rockies was set to make its first return to Durango since 2017 when it hosted one day of the event.
The route featured 28,484 feet of climbing across a 418-mile clockwise loop, with climbs of Lizard Head, Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes.
“We assumed it was coming, but it’s a bummer,” said Durango’s Todd Wells, a three-time mountain bike Olympian who helped announce the 2020 Ride the Rockies route in January. “This was going to be their first year doing the loop with the start and finish in Durango. We were all excited for it.”
Not only was Durango to be the start and finish of the event, but it also would host a prologue stage as well as the registration day, meaning riders would spend three or even four days in the area if they were to complete the full tour.
Ride the Rockies had an estimated economic impact of $250,000 for local businesses for each host community each day of the tour, with a big week expected for breweries, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
In a time in which local businesses are hurting because of the affects of COVID-19 related closures and safety measures, those businesses will have to wait until 2021 to try to recover from 2020 losses.
“It will be needed more than ever when we get to that point next year,” said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District. “The affects of everything we are going through are going to be felt for a long time. Anytime we can bring in sporting events that attract good travelers, a tourist demographic, it’s helpful to our town and will be needed more than ever next year. When the time comes for the 2021 date, Durango will be so excited having those folks here.”
Walsworth indicated many more events that traditionally provide an economic boon to the community will also be forced to make similar decisions.
“What all event organizers have to look at right now is the validity of holding any event of size in the immediate future,” he said. “Whether it is right now or six months from now, those conversations are being had.”
Ride the Rockies participants will be able to defer their entry to 2021 automatically. They may also receive a refund but must apply for a refund by May 31.
Registration fees also can be donated to The Denver Post Community Foundation, the beneficiary of the Ride the Rockies since 1986.
“(Ride the Rockies) is a large, multi-day event that takes a minimum of 12 months to plan, so to move an event of this size to other dates in such a short time would be challenging,” Moynihan said. “Finally, because so many events have been canceled this spring, there is a great demand for available dates with communities and vendors. We decided the best course of action to provide the safe and positive experience we are committed to provide for you is to postpone to 2021.”
Ride the Rockies will offer two virtual ride experiences on Zoom this summer. It will begin at 9 a.m. June 14 with pros Mara Abbott and Mari Holden. On June 19, Durango’s own Ned Overend and Wells will do a Zoom ride at 8 a.m.
“It’s cool to be able to do a virtual ride,” Wells said. “A lot of these big events that have been canceled, we are fortunate now to have the technology to do virtual rides. It’s not the same, obviously, but we can still get out there and virtually pedal with the people.”
Now, all eyes will turn to the 2020 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, which was postponed from its Memorial Day weekend date with the hope of holding the 49th edition of the event in Durango and Silverton sometime in September.
“September is still a possibility,” said Wells, an assistant director of the IHBC. “The longer it drags on, the harder it gets to find a date. Memorial Day, you’re dealing with the potential of snow in the passes. If you start looking into October or late September, there’s a chance you’re dealing with snow in the passes. It’s not an optimal year for anyone. We will wait and see.”