By Neal Rogers
With 4 to 8 inches of snow expected to fall over Boulder, Colorado, between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, the Colorado Roubaix road race has been rescheduled for late May.
The tough event, which features a rolling, 17-mile loop circumnavigating washboard dirt, paved and gravel roads around the Boulder Reservoir, was being billed as the stateside race most closely resembling a Paris-Roubaix-style event. Scheduled one day before the European classic, the race was expected to draw Colorado-based members of Health Net, Ofoto, and TIAA-CREF-5280, and many in the area’s elite-level cycling community were anticipating an epic race.
But while an e-mail sent out to participants earlier in the week insisted that “the race will happen rain, snow or shine,” in the end, the hazardous-weather outlook prevailed.
“It was a hard call,” said race organizer Cathy Howland of Colorado Outdoor Sports, Inc. “I’m disappointed. Who wants to have to reschedule the race? It really would have been an epic.”
Howland said she decided to reschedule the event after American Cycling Association (ACA) officials began an e-mail discussion about how to handle a race cancellation.
“It’s ultimately not my call, but the officiating body who makes the final decision,” Howland said. “The ACA officials have the final say, and they very well could have shown up and potentially canceled it. Obviously it comes down to a safety issue, it’s a liability that they have to face, and it was much easier for me to postpone the race [Friday] morning than have the racers, volunteers and Boulder County Sheriff’s Department show up Saturday and then have the officials call it off.”
Beth Wrenn-Estes, executive director of the ACA and chief referee for the race, said that while she was prepared to show up to the event site Saturday morning and proceed with race preparations, she couldn’t guarantee that she would have canceled the event.
“There are too many what-ifs to say whether or not we would have canceled it,” Wrenn-Estes said. “We’ve ridden races in the past when there’s been snow on the course, but the Roubaix course is unique. Control on the course is critical, and because of the dirt roads we can’t use [officiating] cars, only motorcycles. If half of the motor referees can’t get out of their driveways the morning of the race, then we would have little choice.”
And while Wrenn-Estes holds dominion within the race’s hierarchy as chief referee, she conceded that the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department would have had the final word, and could have decided that a motorcycle-led rolling enclosure over the snow-filled dirt roads presented too much risk.
There were economic concerns, too, Howland explained.
“Financially, it’s easier to make a decision today than tomorrow,” Howland said. Should the race have been attempted in the snowstorm and subsequently canceled, fees dedicated to the reservoir and sheriff’s department would have been spent regardless, she explained. Now, those monies can be applied toward a future date.
“That’s a risk that I would take as the organizer,” Howland said. “The Boulder County Sheriff’s Department, the reservoir, it’s all price-tagged. Sure, a few hard-core people might have shown up, but even if it hadn’t been called off by race officials, two-thirds of the people that were going to race probably wouldn’t have shown. Volunteers were also beginning to drop out, which further jeopardizes the safety of the race. It’s hard to get people to commit to stand out in the snow for five or six hours.”
The Colorado Roubaix has been tentatively rescheduled for Sunday, May 23, filling a space on the calendar left vacant by the Elam Cycling Classic. Howland added that all entrants who are unable to make that date would be refunded their entry fees.