By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
A day after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, officials at the mountain bike world championships have said the event will go on — but not without interruption. Racing at the Vail, Colorado venue was slated to begin Wednesday with the cross-country team relay, but that event was pushed back to Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. local time. The rest of the week’s program will remain intact for now.
“There have been no plans for a massive rescheduling,” said John Dakin, chief of press for the 2001 world’s. “Initially there was talk of canceling the event — and that still may be a possibility — but right now we’re planning on going forward. Too many people worked hard to get here, so if the decision is left in our hands we’ll move forward.”
Already though, concerns were mounting that some athletes and officials won’t make it to Colorado because of the current shutdown in air travel all across the U.S. UCI president Hein Verbruggen was stuck in Toronto a day after the Federal Aviation Association began diverting American-bound international flights to Canada. Air travel in the U.S. was still shut down a day later, and Verbruggen had decided to return to Europe because of the uncertainty as to when he might be able to reach Vail.
Dual specialists Brian Lopes and Mike King were also scrambling to reach Vail. The two Southern California residents decided to drive to Colorado instead of waiting for airports to reopen. Lopes left his home in Laguna Beach at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning. King hung around his home in San Diego until around noon, then decided to drive.
“Hopefully after 17-plus hours of traveling I’ll be in Vail at 6 a.m. (Thursday),” King said.
Meanwhile, there was speculation that Miguel Martinez, the reigning world cross-country champion, might not make it to Vail. The Frenchman’s original plan had been to train in Italy, then arrive in Colorado two days before Sunday’s cross country.
“We may well have to race without him,” Dakin said.
Dakin added that there was likely to be other athletes that were not in Vail yet, but he was unsure as to who. “We’re trying to get a handle on that right now,” he said.
If Martinez does not make it, neither of the defending cross country champions will be present. Already Spain’s Marga Fullana has pulled out of this year’s race citing “extreme tiredness as a consequence of a viral infection.”
However, many of the athletes are already in Colorado, having arrived early in order to acclimate to the altitude (The base area of Vail sits at 8120 feet). Among the early arrivals were the Canadian national team, which spent nearly a week training in and around Boulder, and the Volvo-Cannondale team, which has been holed up at the Wild Horse Inn bed and breakfast just outside Winter Park since the World Cup finals ended.
“If we weren’t at altitude the situation could be a lot worse,” Dakin said. “Lots of people have already been here for days trying to get ready.”