Should Bikepacking Races Be Canceled Due to Weather?

The recent cancelation of The Traka Adventure gravel race in Spain due to heavy rainfall in the forecast has us wondering when and why it makes sense to cancel bikepacking events. Learn more and weigh in with your thoughts here…

Header image by Giovanni Maria Pizzato

Participants who had traveled to Girona, Spain, were stunned to receive the last-minute notification that the 560-kilometer Traka Adventure gravel race, scheduled to start yesterday, was canceled entirely due because of weather. In an email, the organizers wrote, “The Traka Adventure has finally been cancelled due to weather uncertainty and heavy rainfall forecast.” They gave registered participants the option to receive a 100% refund or change their registration to the 360-kilometer version of the event, which begins tomorrow. Understandably, many racers were less than enthused about the decision, with some taking to social media to air their grievances and others opting to ride the route, regardless.

No doubt, the decision to cancel a race is one organizers don’t take lightly, and intense deliberation surely precedes making the final call. The safety of participants and the increased likelihood of damaging trails are valid reasons to scrap an event. And while we know relatively little about the exact circumstances of the 560-kilometer Traka Adventure event, it does seem that the potential for heavy rain shouldn’t necessarily be grounds for canceling a springtime event held on gravel roads. Rider wellbeing is a key concern, but it also takes a particularly hardy rider to sign up for such an event. At least, that’s what one would hope. Riders showing up for ultra-distance events/races should have the requisite experience and a willingness to ride through the elements (or the good sense to make the call not to).

2019 Tour Divide Recap, Eddie Clark
Photo by Eddie Clark

On the heels of the announcement, there are surely many disappointed dotwatchers who were excited about the prospect of watching the likes of Sofiane Sehili and Cynthia Carson take on the route, and adverse conditions have created some of the most dramatic moments in recent ultra-racing history. The image of last year’s Tour Divide leaders huddling together in a porta-potty comes to mind, as does riders being stopped in their tracks and holing up at Brush Mountain Lodge in the mudfest of 2019. On the other hand, the dozen or more search and rescue calls made during a short period in the Canadian stretch of the 2022 Tour Divide and the heavy toll they exerted on local resources makes a compelling point against setting riders loose in extreme conditions.

  • 2019 Silk Road Mountain Race Report
  • 2023 Tour Divide Eddie Clark

As much as we like the spirit of bikepacking races being held rain or shine, rider safety and mindfulness about impacts on the natural environment are worthy considerations when weighing whether an event should continue as planned. Still, that’s not to say the news is easy to hear for riders who have spent months or more training, made arrangements, and traveled great distances to compete. It’s nearly impossible to imagine some events being canceled—the Highland Trail 550 comes to mind—as braving the elements seems to be a core part of the experience.

Chris McClean, 2023 Atlas Mountain Race
Photo by Chris McClean

As racers, we’re curious to hear your broader thoughts on whether you’d prefer events to be canceled and refunded due to weather or if challenging conditions are part of the adventure for you and you’d like the option to make the call yourself. Where do you draw the line? Do you have the same feeling if the event is free or paid? We welcome your input, stories, and photos in the comments below.

Further Reading

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