Supervisor still weighing pros and cons of ride’s outcome (Photo: Steve Schmunk)
In May, The Sheet wrote about a bicycle ordinance that Mono County Supervisor Hap Hazard had drafted regarding bike traffic in the Lower Rock Creek area. Written in February, the ordinance called for the closure of Lower Rock Creek Road to bicycle racing events, specifically the Everest Challenge held in the fall. A flurry of public feedback and comments however, led to a temporary shelving of the document, and its future was to rely on how the Everest Challenge was conducted this year.
“The promoters weren’t taking it seriously,” Hazard said in May. “They were told when they received their permit last year that the race could not continue the way it was.”
The issue was the traffic problems the race was allegedly creating for residents of Swall Meadows.
The ride took place last Saturday, Sept. 25. According to Hazard, the ordinance is still sitting on its shelf. “I have no consideration to change anything at this point,” he said. “I am still evaluating the overall event.”
His evaluation, however, was tinged with a bit of disappointment when The Sheet spoke with him.
“I drove the course myself from about 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. [on the day of the ride] and I was not happy with what I saw,” Hazard explained.
He claimed he observed two of the main agreements that the County had put into place with the event organizer being disregarded.
“I expected 6-10 course marshals, but there were only two and they were not at critical positions,” Hazard said. There was also no action being taken against riders who rode more than two abreast in the road and had the potential of blocking traffic, according to Hazard.
“The organizers were suppose to have people stopping these riders, taking their jerseys and disqualifying them immediately in order to make them an example for the rest of the racers,” Hazard said.
On the positive side of things, Hazard said he did not see a lot of vehicle traffic being impaired during the race. “Probably a half a dozen to 10 cars,” he estimated.
Hazard has only received a few negative comments from community members and is looking into their credibility at this time.
Randy Fendon, a volunteer at the race with the Eastside Velo Club [a local club that lends a hand for the race but does not organize it], felt that the race has, and still does have more of a positive significance than a negative one.
“The excess funds from this race go to charities like Freedom in Motion, high school sports programs and Northern Inyo Hospital,” Fendon said. “On the day of the race, Steve Barnes [the event director] even made a $500 donation to the Paradise and Swall Meadows Fire Department.” The department was having a garage sale Saturday morning. According to Fendon, Barnes donated $400 and purchased a skill saw for $100.
“People need to understand the benefits of something like this,” Fendon said. “The Everest Challenge is the hardest two day road bike ride in the U.S. and maybe in the world. It is harder than any two back to back days in the Tour de France.”
Fendon claimed that most of the 350 riders were not local. Since many of the riders bring their families with them, approximately 500 people were in Inyo and Mono counties.
“Events like this one are a source of revenue in a slow time of year,” Fendon said.
Executive Director of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce, Tawni Thomson agreed with Fendon and estimated that the visiting riders brought at least $100,000 to $125,000 to the area.
“That’s a conservative estimate,” she said. “Often these types of visitors come a few days early or stay a few days later to venture out and see the areas outside of their race. Many times it is their first visit to the Eastern Sierra and if we [Chamber] do our job right they end up coming back for pleasure.”
The Bishop Chamber helped prepare the Friday night pasta feed for the riders. “The Bishop Chamber supports these types of events because they are a necessary part of the economy,” Thomson explained. “I would hate to lose an event that brings 400 to 500 people to town.”
Fendon agreed that more course marshals could have been placed in Lower Rock Creek canyon where Hazard went looking for them, but clarified that there were 15-16 course marshals working the race.
“The course marshals were mainly placed between Paradise and Swall Meadows because that is where we thought the communities wanted them,” Fendon added.
He felt the issue could easily be corrected next year. In regard to disqualifying riders who were more than two abreast on the road, Fendon was unsure what had been decided on that issue and believed there was still some confusion about how those situations were supposed to be handled.
“I don’t know how to police the riders but the answer is not to throw half of them out of the race,” Fendon said. He hoped that both sides of the issue, cyclists and motorist, could work to come to a mutual understanding and respect.
Event Director Steve Barnes had not returned The Sheet’s phone call or e-mail at the time of this post.