After what feels like a lot longer than six months of frustration and feeling pretty much helpless, the relief was huge when we were recently granted permission to run an enduro at the end of October. Having spent many weeks deep diving the Covid event guidelines and issues around the virus in order to create a new enduro race in the Tweed Valley, the Glentress Monster enduro was born. But then it wasn’t – we had to cancel it yesterday – just two days before we were going to announce it and open for entries.
A new enduro event was always going to be vulnerable in our changing virus landscape, but this was a real glimmer of hope for us and a wee feeling of winning, of saving the season somehow – a chance to help ourselves and finally bring in some cash in a year of zero event income. With event after event postponed or cancelled this year, the new sense of purpose for this race felt like a revelation. The event plan was good, and we were excited to get it out there:
- One day event to reduce overnight stays
- Held at Glentress to reduce town visitors (the opposite of what we usually try to do)
- A big day of blind enduro racing on some of the classics
- Course, stages and forest split into zones to avoid bunching/groups
- New registration and Covid-unfriendly systems put in place throughout
- Individual start times for every part/stage of the event to prevent queues
- Covid officer trained and qualified, all the new risk assessments etc done
- New protocols in place for trail digging and prep
- All Forestry and other guidelines and community comms in place, I could go on…
But at the weekend the Scottish government changed the rules with the result that the maximum riders taking part was effectively 140. Income is never going to meet expenditure at that level, especially with all the extra Covid gubbins organisers need now. The final nail in the Monster’s coffin was an email explaining that our local authority aren’t keen on people travelling here from areas of the UK with additional restrictions – which is currently half of the country.
More than likely that’s it for the year now – 2020 will be a year with not a single TweedLove event, and not many others either. The bike events sector, like the rest of the events industry, is in a very bad way. Making a living from putting on bike races and events (particularly MTB ones) is a precarious business at the best of times, but as the end of furlough looms with no events looking possible for us this year, winter is indeed coming.
It’s true that a lot of regional races are organised by individuals or smaller, more voluntary-based organisations and happily a lot of these guys have other income sources too, so they may come out of it relatively unscathed. For slightly bigger outfits though, ones with staff, offices, storage and all the usual business overheads, the picture has just got even bleaker.
Back in the early days of lockdown, positive-thinking plans were hatched for how we could keep our heads above water through the winter and, mighty relieved, arrive on safe shores next Spring – when everything will be back to normal (won’t it?). We scraped together plans for funding packages, to keep the lights on and people in jobs (even it meant going part-time). As well as using what help is on offer from the governments, this generally involved using up any remaining business reserves, and also being able to bring in a little income from a few (albeit Covid-restricted) events in 2020. Unfortunately, removing that final, modest piece of funding from a business’s jenga-tower-style survival plan may bring a lot of blocks tumbling, with obvious redundancy implications.
So for the events world, the tough times are getting tougher, but you can be assured most of us have no intention of disappearing. When we do come back, we hope that all those bike industry brands who’ve enjoyed their best year ever, will show some solidarity with their bike industry sisters and brothers and look a wee bit deeper into their sponsorship and event support purses.
We all want an early return to the buzz, excitement and memories that great bike events create. TweedLove is 100% committed to delivering a full year of awesome bike events next year, so all we ask is for riders to keep the faith and keep your race places if you already have them. Encourage your pals to book early for next year’s races – good advance sales mean organisers will be able to save some marketing budget and can plan better – all those little things make a difference.
99% of bike event organisers are in it because we love the sport and of course we love riding ourselves. While it’s been great being able to get out on the trails this summer, it doesn’t fill the hole left by not seeing hundreds of our bike pals stoked on the highs, lows, fears and friendships of our events.
So please stick with us, and we’ll see you next year. We don’t know if the events will be identical to what they’ve been in the past, but we do guarantee good times, fantastic trails and event organisation which has been scrutinised to the max for your safety. See you out there.