Spoke Talk: Becoming a virtual race director | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: Becoming a virtual race director

Eli Campbell
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As a producer of cycling events, I’ve often joked that it is a line of work you get into because you like riding bikes, but you spend so much of the cycling season working that you hardly ever get to hop in the saddle yourself. 

This year, though, will mark the first time I am able to virtually participate in events that I am simultaneously producing. To understand how we got here, let’s back up to this spring, when the work of an event producer and the world in general shifted drastically.

I learned the Emerald Mountain Epic would be hiring a race director in late March, not long after Steamboat Resort had shut down operations for the season. While I was creating my resume for the position, a few of the early-season events were already making their difficult decisions to cancel or postpone. 

When I interviewed with the Emerald Mountain Epic team in late April, we briefly discussed how this year’s event would likely have some added precautions in place, but we all shared the belief our community would be in a position by August to still host the race. I was on weekly Zoom calls with cycling event coordinators across the state of Colorado and the nation.  The focus of these calls was not how to take your event virtual, but how to get back to racing.

By June, our question was still not “if” we were going to host a race, but instead “how.” To that end, we spent tireless hours developing mitigation strategies, which included capping registration at half of a normal year,  redesigning the race start and aid stations, so as to adhere to social distancing and group gathering size limitations, and eliminating the post-race lunch and awards.

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In late June, as local and national COVID-19 cases started to emerge once again, we conferred with the Routt County Department of Public Health.  Despite our well-thought-out mitigation plans, it became clear that we would not be able to obtain the support we needed. With that, we quickly shifted our focus from how to put on a race in the time of COVID-19 to how to still host an event that would benefit our nonprofit organizers, which meant moving to a virtual platform.

I got into the world of developing bike events as an opportunity to promote experiences that get people out of their technologically-reliant world, if even briefly. I never thought the words “virtual” and “bike race” would be used in the same sentence. 

Transitioning to virtual has been a learning process but has opened up some new opportunities as well. The Emerald Mountain Epic is no longer a race in 2020, but instead a participation event that benefits Partners in Routt County and Routt County Riders. With that change, we’ve found ways to make it more inclusive to more people. 

Along with our typical lengths of a 52- or 26-mile mountain bike ride and full or half-marathon, we’ve added mini-Epic challenges of 10 miles or 10K.  For me personally, the one great benefit of a virtual Epic is that, for the first time, I have the opportunity to participate in an event I am producing. I encourage you to join me in the Emerald Mountain Epic presented by Honey Stinger. For more information, visit emeraldmtnepic.org.

I look forward to seeing you on the trails in August.

Eli Campbell is race director for the Emerald Mountain Epic.

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