2021 Race Season Predictions & Considerations
Here are our predictions and coaching considerations for the return of amateur racing and events for 2021. The COVID -19 vaccine is coming but the line is long. We are hopeful and confident that athletes will be able to return to racing safely in 2021 but the beginning of the traditional season is very much on a wait and see, basis. It is important to think about the timing of that return when choosing how to manage one's training.
Recently the New York Times published a "Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line" for individuals to find out when they can expect to receive the vaccine. Follow the link to enter your age, county you live in, and profession you work in to see your place in line. Unless you work in healthcare, are a first responder, teacher or are considered an essential worker, you can expect a long line in front of you. By a long line we are talking months, maybe even the Summer of 2021 according to the Colorado Sun. * I personally am at the back of the line behind 228k essential workers, children, teachers, elderly, first responders and health care workers. In fact as a healthy individual I'm in the bottom 10% to receive the vaccine.
*Check your State's Public Health Department
In terms of bike racing, unfortunately it is going to be awhile before everyone is vaccinated; suffice it to say we do not anticipate any large scale amateur bike racing or public events until after May, maybe June. That's good news for the cyclocross season, but for everybody else, we are recommending to delay your form** until then.
**By form, we mean the timing of your training - doing what and when and how much, from lifting weights to building base and switching to high intensity intervals, overloads, tapers and 'peaking'. Timing is everything as we like to say and it is important not to become the group ride hero this March at the expense of peak form this June/July/August. Hero to zero - let's avoid that. Colorado Department of Health's Guidelines; Check your States Guidelines too.
Below I'll breakdown the probable scenarios for the return of Gravel/Fondo, Road and Mountain Biking. And because, who doesn't love a good, fun, social group ride, I'll postulate about those too. Bear in mind rates of vaccinations will vary from state to state in the US and other places of the world. Permitting races will be dictated by individual state Public Health Departments and will be subject to size limitations. A local race with less than 250 racers is much more likely to be permitted before a race with more than a thousand racers.
Don't expect the big gravel races to return until most of the population is vaccinated and public health departments permit these races. I would not expect the Mid-South or even the April Belgian Waffle Rides to happen unfortunately. In fact I think Unbound Gravel scheduled for June 5th is right on the cusp of whether or not the Department of Public Health in Kansas will permit a race with participants coming in from all over the US and even some racers traveling internationally.
Do look for opportunities to return to gravel racing on a more local grassroots level. I would not be surprised to see events happening under the radar in February but remember: just because you can have a race, doesn't mean you should. Social Distancing also means social responsibility.
With regards to the timing of your form we recommend if you do participate in early season events to use them as fun B & C goal events while keeping an eye on your A Race prize later on this Summer/Fall. That means if the race is cancelled at the last minute you don't blow a half year of training and peaking.
Since most road races, criteriums and time trials need to be permitted by USA Cycling, look to USAC for when they will being permitting races again. They were proactive in pulling permits so look to them to be conservative in issuing them again in 2021. I would not want to have to figure out how to permit races across the nation with different factors, variables, rates of vaccinations, etc...
I do think you'll see events that were traditionally scheduled in the Spring be rescheduled later on in the Summer and early Fall. This will hold true for many many events which is all the more reason to for athletes to be patient this winter and train consistently with phases and builds of their training designed toward June and after.
In recent years, we've seen various road events be put on without the need for a USA Cycling permit. Like gravel, I think we'll see local small races happen much sooner than National Championship events. If that's your jam like I know it is for many many athletes we serve, go for it! And of course, Strava PR's can be attempted anytime.
Same deal as Gravel and Fondo's and Road: will come down to the size of the event and what part of the country. USAC permitted or not. Smaller local events in April & May-ish and bigger permitted races after Memorial Day. For the southern states like California, Arizona and Texas where the mountain bike scene is strong in February and March we will just have to wait and see what happens for the races being held. Since you'll choose to assign these B & C race priorities it won't matter in the big picture if the races get cancelled in relation to your A events training.
USA Cycling has published the Pro XCT schedule for 2021 but honestly am skeptical if the first race in Temecula, March 14th happens. Arkansas in April seems more likely....
Mountain Bike Nationals in July seems likely but some of the larger events in April and May might be rescheduled for the summer and Fall.
Group riding could possibly be what I miss the most and since they don't require a permit, I think these will be what return first. Maybe your small group of 4-5 training partners never stopped. A lot of businesses that host rides like bike shops and Rapha Clubhouses have not promoted group rides, but I think as America begins to get vaccinated you are going to see the Saturday group ride start to reemerge in March/April-ish. Just in time for your Sweet Spot Group Rides that your training plan calls for, whoop!
Do you have a race you're training for that differs from what I wrote above? Let me know in the comments below or join our *FREE* Athlete Forum to share.
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