Athletes are no longer asking whether they’re ready to race, they’re asking if they should. The answer is complicated.
Usually, deciding to race is a pretty simple calculation. “Do I want to race? Am I ready?”
Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, however, the equation has become much more complicated. While large races are cancelled almost across the board for 2020, some local events with smaller fields are opting to race. So athletes are left to determine whether or not it’s safe to race.
Unfortunately, there is no single answer I can provide to satisfy everyone, but I can provide some guidance to help you make the decision for yourself.
If you’re in New Zealand, where the disease has essentially been eradicated, the decision whether or not to race might be fairly simple. Here in the United States, however, there has been no coordinated effort to contain the virus, wearing a mask has become a political position and the disease is completely out of control. As such, you have to make a decision based on local factors.
How is the case rate trending in the area you’ll be racing in? How about in surrounding counties where riders may be traveling from? How has the local government responded to the pandemic, are they pushing for re-opening or is there a mask mandate in place?
The Situation at Home
Before you consider the risks of the race to you, consider those around you. COVID-19 may present a relatively low risk of morbidity and mortality to a fit cyclist, but the risk to the people you could infect may be great. If you live around or will visit persons of advanced age or those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, previous cancers, or cardiovascular disease you need to be extra cautious in your decision making.
Race Organizers Make It or Break It
Before you show up to race, know what measures are in place to protect riders from COVID-19. Here’s what I’ve been looking for before I even show up to an event:
- Foremost, a guarantee that rules will be enforced. “Rider’s Responsibility” is a no from me.
- Contact-less registration and packet pickup.
- Mask requirement for staging area and finish.
- No mass start and/or option for time trial style solo start.
- Zero rider contact with aid station supplies and masked/gloved attendants.
- No spectators.
- Virtual post-race awards.
I look for clear communication on all of these fronts well before race day.
Race Day Decisions
I have raced this year and plan to race at least once more before 2020 ends, but I show up to every event ready to pack up and leave. Don’t fall into the mindset that since you’re there you might as well race. If organizers aren’t enforcing the rules they set and you don’t feel comfortable with how things are being handled, pack up your bike and head home.