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  • Dylan Anderson

SBT GRVL gets approval for this year as Commissioners admit 3,000 riders may be a ‘mistake’

Commissioners said event organizers met the criteria they set for large special events, but intend to make changes for next year.

The Routt County Commissioners approved this year’s SBT GRVL bike race in a heavily attended meeting earlier this month, while also admitting they may have errored when crafting a new events policy that allowed events like the race to have as many as 3,000 bikers.

The decision means the main SBT GRVL event on Aug. 18 can proceed with 3,000 riders this year as planned, but it also signals that a smaller race could be coming next year.

Each commissioner said they felt event organizers had met the requirements of the updated special event permitting process and therefore the event for this year should be approved. Still, each showed a willingness to revise the events policy ahead of next year's event, with the number of participants allowed being a significant focus. 

“We may have made a mistake when we set the 3,000-person threshold, and I do think we need to revisit it, but that’s what we did,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “When we did that, we put in place a process and the applicant dotted every I and crossed every T when they brought that application forward.”

“I feel like it would be disingenuous for me, or us, to say oh I’m sorry, thanks for going through all that, but we changed our mind,” Corrigan continued.

Commissioners Sonja Macys and Tim Redmond joined in Corrigan’s point of view, each emphasizing the importance of the rural ranching heritage in Routt County and a desire to limit the size of events in the future.

“If this event is to go forward in future years, that [3,000 riders] number needs to come down significantly,” Macys said.

Routt County’s rural residents showed up in force to the June 4 meeting — a public hearing on the permit for SBT GRVL’s that saw well over an hour of public comment. Key concerns they raised were the potential liability of having bikers on their property, navigating additional traffic on gravel roads during a key time in the agricultural season and their general feeling that the bike race was incompatible with the rural way of life, among others.

Others complained that event organizers had already announced a date and sold out the race before having commissioner approval for the race — something several commenters referred to as an example of the “entitlement” of bikers.

But organizers with the SBT GRVL say they have taken extensive measures to limit the impacts of the race on rural residents. Key changes ahead of this year’s race include new, more spread-out routes, an increased law enforcement presence and more targeted messaging to riders ahead of the race.

“Over the last nine months we have learned a lot, and so many of you in this room have brought us so many things that we can work on,” said Amy Charity, CEO of SBT GRVL. “We know that we need to change many things, to make this a sustainable event that people are happy with and that this county is proud of. We heard you.”

Charity said one of the main concerns they have heard is the race’s conflict with the Routt County Fair, which ends on the Sunday of the race. While the two events will have conflicting dates again this year, Charity said that would not happen again next year. Last week, organizers indicated they are eyeing June for next year’s race.

Redmond said he saw the timing as one of the more significant factors, as the race takes place in a key time of year for agriculture producers.

“I’m with Commissioner Corrigan. We set out this agenda, we said if you jump through these hoops, we’ll work with you,” Redmond said. “I’m not a man that goes back on my word that way, but I will say, as we move forward, there’s some work to be done here.”

The June 4 meeting ended with Commissioners approving this year’s SBT GRVL race as planned, though they delayed a decision on various smaller organized bike rides in the days leading up to the race known as shakeout rides.

In another well-attended meeting last week Commissioners approved a slimed down plan for shakeout rides that would have just two of them happening on Aug. 16, the Friday before the race. One of those rides is in and around Steamboat, the other in and around Hayden. Commissioners also laid out a series of steps SBT GRVL needs to take during and after the event that hopes to inform how to approach it in the future.

After approval, each commissioner indicated that this year’s SBT GRVL race would serve as a sort of pilot program to inform how to approach it in the future.

“I would ask that anyone who is participating in the monitoring and observation of this race this year, do it in good faith,” Macys said. “I hope we’re focusing on the safety elements, the quality-of-life elements that were such a disruption last year, and not just simply trying to have the plug pulled on the race.”

“This is going to be a pilot test year,” Macys continued. “We have put into place a number of pretty significant changes over past years… It’s upon us to see what happens this year.”




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