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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to have lasting repercussions in the cycling industry.
On Tuesday, mountain bike race promoter Epic Rides announced that it has had to make major cutbacks to its 2022 event calendar, postponing two of its marquee XC MTB races until 2023 and canceling one entirely.
Instead, the company, which was founded in 1999 in Tucson, will focus on promoting its three Arizona-based events: 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, Whiskey Off-Road, and the Tour of the White Mountains.
Two of Epic Rides’ non-Arizona events — Carson City Off-Road in Nevada, and the OZ Trails Off-Road in Arkansas — will tentatively resume in 2023, while Grand Junction Off-Road in Colorado has been permanently canceled. In the past, those three events, along with the Whiskey Off-Road, have formed the Epic Ride Series, a popular race series with a generous prize purse.
Like many businesses specializing in live, in-person events, Epic Rides has atrophied since March 2020 with a substantial loss of revenue and personnel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s founder Todd Sadow told VeloNews that paring down events in 2022 was the only way to ensure that Epic Rides stayed afloat.
“This is our best answer to this period of time,” he said. “Our ability to go from 0 back to 120 percent at six events nationwide isn’t viable. We’re not that big, and we’ve atrophied a lot over the last two years. So we’re going to take a year to focus on Arizona and get stable footing beneath us. After we get through 2022 hopefully we’ll have spooled up enough to focus on 2023 in a bigger way.”
The Epic Rides 2022 season will kick off in February at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. Registration for the event sold-out in three hours in October. 24HOP will celebrate its 22nd year in 2022. In April, the Whiskey Off-Road returns to Prescott, Arizona. Sadow hinted that the 2022 edition of the race would be special but would not elaborate.
“It’ll be beyond what anyone has ever seen from us,” he said. “It’s gonna be off the hook.”
The 2022 Epic Rides season will conclude with the Tour of the White Mountains, an event that Sadow said grew by 30 percent from 2019 to 2021.
In October, Sadow told VeloNews that he struggled with how to handle registration fees for canceled events. The company only held one event — 24HOP in 2020 — and also canceled four out of six events in 2021. For riders who had registered for one of the canceled events, Epic Rides will credit 25 percent of the entry fee to their account. The credit will be valid through 2023, and those riders will also be eligible for early and discounted registration into the 2022 Whiskey Off-Road and the Tour of the White Mountains,
General registration for the Whiskey Off-Road opens on Friday, December 17, 2021, and Tour of the White Mountains general registration opens on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
While Epic Rides will focus on its Arizona events in 2022, Sadow is confident that, in 2023, the race series will be up and humming.
“These should be three really strong Arizona events that our region can look forward to,” he said. “And, we extend a great deal of gratitude to the communities of Carson City, Nevada, and Bentonville and Bella Vista in Arkansas. The patience of these communities is invaluable, giving Epic Rides an additional year to gain confidence in our recovery from the impacts of the pandemic while the global supply chain irons out its wrinkles, allowing for more reliable involvement from the bike industry.”
2022 Epic Rides Event Dates
- 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo: February 18-20
- Whiskey Off-Road: April 29-May 1
- Tour of the White Mtns: October 1