Tour des Suds bike race returns for 36th year, with changes due to COVID-19
Park City residents and visitors may see a person dressed up as a chicken riding a mountain bike during the month of September.
If they do, they shouldn’t be alarmed, because more than likely that chicken is participating in this year’s Tour des Suds, said Ginger Wicks, Mountain Trails Foundation’s director of events.
Tour des Suds, a 36-year bike race tradition and fundraiser that opens the fall mountain biking season, is usually scheduled as a bona fide, but fun, bike race that encourages riders to dress in costume.
Due to COVID-19, Mountain Trails Foundation decided to hold the race virtually instead of canceling it, according to Wicks.
“The virtual format allows everyone to go out and ride the route on their own time to maintain social distancing, and we are giving them the entire month of September to ride the course and report their times,” she said. “We are looking at a new course this year. We are incorporating the new 9k trail, so we’re still working out the route. Details will be forthcoming.”
Since this is a virtual event, there will be no aid stations or medical staff on the route, Wicks said.
“Participants should be prepared and take their own water and medical supplies,” she said. “We also suggest people ride with a buddy — 6 feet apart, of course.”
Bikers can register by visiting mountaintrails.org. Anyone who registers before Sept. 1 will receive a pair of official Tours des Suds socks, Wicks said.
“If you’re familiar with the event, you know the socks are one of the most important parts of it,” she said with a laugh. “If you register after Sept. 1, there is no guarantee you will get socks.”
Mountain Trails Foundation will mail number plates to all registrants. Registrants will photograph themselves with the number plate and email the photos along with their times to Wicks at firstname.lastname@example.org once they finish the ride.
In addition, riders can post their photos to Facebook and Instagram with their times and the hashtags #tourdesuds and #virtural&virusfree, she said.
Results will be posted on Oct. 2, Wicks said.
“We are using the honor system, for sure, and while we don’t know if the times are official, it’s not really what these events are all about,” she said. “While the race time is important, there are other reasons why people participate in the event. They love the longstanding tradition of community events. They love supporting Mountain Trails. They love mountain biking.”
The photos are also supposed to show the riders in costumes, Wicks said.
“We didn’t want to lose the fun quirkiness of this long-standing tradition,” she said. “We’re working on a voting platform where the general public can vote for the top three costumes, so we can award prizes.”
Tour des Suds, like the Mountain Trails Foundation’s Triple Trail Challenge foot races, which are also being run virtually this year, is a fundraiser to help the nonprofit maintain more than 400 miles of trails in and around Park City, Wicks said.
The average cost to maintain or build a trail is $5 per foot, according to field manager Rick Fournier.
“Saving our events even during a pandemic is critical for the community because Park City is a huge outdoor-enthusiast community,” Wicks said. “It’s important that we take care of these trails, especially now, when everyone is social distancing and migrating to the outdoors.”
Of course nothing can replace an actual Tour des Suds race that culminates with frothy beverages for riders who are of age, Wicks said.
“We will miss seeing everyone at the start and finish lines, and we miss seeing our volunteers who have supported us over the years by working our aid stations,” she said. “But I think virtual is a good compromise and checks all of the boxes Mountain Trails tries to do during the year of COVID. We felt this was the safest way to do this for the participant and our staff.
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