Deer Creek Challenge ride canceled due to low numbers

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Event may return in 2013, possibly running a week or two earlier

By Michael Hicks

Race director Pat Downing, in an e-mail sent to participants last week, announced that the Deer Creek Challenge bicycle ride, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19, has been canceled because of low registration numbers.
“Due to lower-than-expected participation we have the made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s event. If you have participated in the Deer Creek Challenge during past years, you know that the safety of our cyclists is our highest priority. To that end, we require a minimum number of registered participants to provide the necessary level of course maintenance, law enforcement and emergency response support along the course. Without this critical component, the Deer Creek Challenge is simply not possible,” the e-mail read. The message was also available online at www.deercreekchallenge.com.
The ride, which starts and ends at West Deer creek Road, just off C-470 near Chatfield Reservoir, was in its third year. It was to benefit the Mountain Resource Center in Conifer. The Deer Creek Challenge offers riders a choice of four rides — 33-, 62-, 89- or 100-mile courses.
Downing wouldn’t confirm how many registrations the ride received, but he said that it was “very close to a break-even point for us.” The Deer Creek Challenge had 1,200 riders annually the first two years, he said.
Don Keller, a 53-year-old burn survivor who rode in the Deer Creek Challenge in 2011, was one of may riders disappointed to learn of the ride’s cancellation.
“The ride certainly represented something very important for me. It was something that I would focus on when I was laying in the hospital bed in ICU,” Keller said. “The ride gave me a great focal point. When I started to recover I was like ‘I can do this.’ ”
While the cancellation was disappointing for Keller, he said it had to be a pretty difficult decision for Downing. Betsy Keyes, Keller’s wife, echoed those sentiments.
“It’s certainly disappointing, but it doesn’t stop us from training or diminish our love for riding,” she said.
Some riders are considering riding the route as is, according to online reports, but Keller and Keyes said they wouldn’t “out of respect so that we’re not crowding everything up.”
And though the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, scheduled for Aug. 20-26 throughout Colorado, didn’t conflict with the Deer Creek Challenge, Downing said it was “hard to say” if it had any impact on the event.
“I’ve been contemplating that a lot the past few weeks. When we started this the week we did the pro challenge hadn’t been created yet. They took the same weekend we had,” Downing said. “But I don’t think (it had an impact).”
Downing said refunds would be issued to all those who registered and that checks would be mailed within 45 days minus any team-related or special offer discounts. He said that officials were verifying mailing addresses as most riders registered online.
Downing said that ride officials would continue to explore options, including sponsorships, to bring the ride back.
“The feedback we’ve received from those registered is encouraging,” Downing said.
Downing said he has “lots of confidence” that the Deer Creek Challenge would be back in 2013, even if it has to be moved up a week or two earlier to make a difference.