by Than Acuff
Yet another local event has taken a hit this year, as Gunnison Trails decided to cancel the annual Growler mountain bike race scheduled for May 23-24.
“We have pulled the plug,” says Gunnison Trails executive director Tim Kugler. “I don’t think that comes as too much of a surprise. It’s a bummer.”
Registration for the annual classic mountain bike race held at Hartman Rocks was on par with past years, with 400 people registered by the end of March.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything came to a screeching halt, so did registrations. As things went from bad to worse with the pandemic, Kugler saw an uptick in emails and phone calls from registered riders asking about the status of the race. In addition, Kugler received some comments from riders expressing their discomfort with the idea of the race.
“Some people were legitimately concerned about even traveling to the race,” says Kugler.
While there was some discussion to wait until the week before the race to make the final call, Kugler felt it was better to go ahead and make the decision earlier rather than later for a number of reasons. Kugler points out that a lot of the participants have hotel reservations and other plans involved in the race weekend and making a last-minute call can throw a huge wrench into the mix.
The cancellation comes as a major financial hit to Gunnison Trails since the Growler is their biggest fundraiser of the year. They are offering people who have already signed up a refund but are also asking them to consider donating their registration fee to Gunnison Trails. Anyone who does will be entered into a raffle.
“Anyone who donates half or all of their entry fee will be entered into a raffle to win some sweet prizes, including a new shock and numerous gift certificates to local businesses,” says Kugler.
But all is not lost. Gunnison Trails is working with local companies cbgtrails.com and TerraQuest to offer a virtual Growler. Download the TerraQuest app complete with the Growler course, ride the course, full Growler or half Growler, and your time will be uploaded to create a leaderboard with Kugler exploring the idea of prizes for top results.
“It’s a way to incentivize people to return to the valley once we’re open,” says Kugler. “You still go out and ride the course and can still see how you stack up.”
More details about the specifics of the virtual Growler will be updated on both gunnisontrails.org and originalgrowler.com.
Ultimately, the decision to cancel the Growler, while troubling for Kugler and Gunnison Trails, was the right thing to do.
“It seemed irresponsible to open up the valley to 700 people all at once,” says Kugler.