Spoke Talk: A race nearly 18 months in the making
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
In late 2019, Routt County Riders and Partners in Routt County were handed the blueprints for what had previously been known as the Steamboat Stinger. With the birth of the Honey Stinger Emerald Mountain Epic, there was both pressure and optimism.
The pressure was to create an event that lived up to the high standards and strong reputation that had been built over the previous nine years of successfully produced events by Honey Stinger. The optimism was both for what were seen as opportunities to grow the event and for what this event would now mean as a major fundraiser for the two nonprofits now at the helm.
However, those feelings soon faded as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic took over, and the inaugural EME was forced to operate in a virtual platform.
People often ask me what I enjoy about my job as a producer of cycling events. Beyond sharing my passion for exploring on two wheels, I typically say that I’ve always liked puzzles and solving riddles. When you are planning an event of almost any nature, there is no shortage of problems to solve as you figure out how all the pieces will fit together. This past year, though, took that to an extreme level.
Even as it became apparent that we would be able to host an in-person race, there were still hours spent on COVID-19 mitigation plans, air quality policies and multiple venue and route changes due to chairlift construction. If I’m honest, there were times where I started to ask myself why I still enjoyed producing events. The problems that I was now solving were no longer about how to create a better experience for the participants but instead about how to plan around issues that were well beyond our control.
So, what was it that kept me, and our team, pushing forward?
Every time I was feeling the frustration, a timely email from a racer would come through. There’s the guy who is training in the heat of the United Arab Emirates and, ultimately, taking four flights, connecting through three different airports, to join our race. Or the woman from Brazil who found her love for endurance running while living in Wisconsin and sees this event, with its large elevation gains, as the toughest challenge she has faced as a runner yet. And the woman whose 2019 race ended before she even hit the course because her partner’s bike broke on the first lap. Getting redemption has been her driving motivation for training this summer.
Each of our 1,200 racers has an individual story as to what brought them to sign up, and each is extremely excited that our race is happening. Ultimately, the only way it can happen in person is by thinking through the things that I may have never thought I would even need to consider when I first got into this line of work.
At the end of the day, though, I am still helping to create incredible experiences for people and supporting two amazing nonprofit organizations along the way.
Now, we sit just two short weeks away from the race that our racers, and our Emerald Mountain Epic team, have been waiting nearly 18 months to host. The pressure is still there to put on an event that lives up to the Steamboat Stinger reputation, but more than that, the optimism for the event this year, and for the future, is as strong as it has ever been. Let’s rejoice together that on Aug. 7 and 8 we race.
If you’d like to be a part of creating the experience for our races, find out how you can volunteer at EmeraldMtnEpic.org.
Eli Campbell is a member of Routt County Riders and race director of the Emerald Mountain Epic.
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