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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Beer Bike 2022 to return to pre-pandemic format

Illustrated by Andrea Gomez

By Keegan Leibrock     2/22/22 11:39pm

Beer Bike events will return to pre-pandemic structure this year, according to campus-wide Beer Bike coordinators Paulina Yannitsadis and Sean Judge. Many of the COVID-19 restrictions of last year’s race will be modified or removed.

According to Judge, a sophomore from Sid Richardson College, this year’s Beer Bike race will have dual-delivery options, with separate broadcasters for an online broadcast and an in-person event.

“We are looking around for students interested in sports broadcasting to work as announcers for both the online and in-person viewing options,” Judge said. “As far as Covid is concerned, we are very conscientious and working with [the Rice administration].” 

Bridget Gorman, dean of undergraduates, said that, although the details are still being discussed, the race itself will likely be more traditional than it was last year.

“We are still working to finalize details on Beer Bike events, but the Beer Bike committee is currently steering towards a more traditional race format and overall event structure,” Gorman wrote in an email to the Thresher. “The event will include a single relay including all 11 colleges in addition to the [Graduate Student Association], with the alumni race being held separately as it always has.”

In addition to the race itself, Gorman said that traditional, pre-pandemic Beer Bike events are likely to occur in the days leading up to the race, including the water balloon fight and float parade. According to Gorman, key details will be settled by early March.

“With regard to COVID-19 restrictions, our number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of all who attend,” Gorman wrote. “We will be integrating various COVID-related modifications to help ensure this, including improved safety around foot traffic and crowd management near the track.” 

Yannitsadis said a major challenge in planning for Beer Bike is that neither of the coordinators have never seen the week leading up to the event during a non-Covid year. 

“Both of us have never seen what a real Beer Bike experience is like,” Yannitsadis, a sophomore from Sid Richardson College, said. “Many seniors have reached out to give input and illustrate how important Beer Bike is to them and we definitely understand, especially because it is their last Beer Bike.”

Mason Reece, a Hanszen bike team captain, said that his team began preparing for the relay race in August. Hanszen tied for first in the men’s race and second in the women’s race with Jones College last year.

“Our training is going super well,” Reece, a senior, said. “Now that we have around six weeks left, we’ve got a lot of training going on… we’ve got a lot of new riders this year and so it’s been great - everyone’s really happy.”

Reece said that he has appreciated helping his team discover what aspects of biking interest them the most.

“I have really enjoyed getting people out there and helping them find their love for cycling,” Reece said. “Some people just do it for the speed, others do it for the social aspects, and some engineering students really like the bikes’ mechanics.”

Reece said that, for this year’s Beer Bike, he is most looking forward to the energy of the race itself, especially now that it will be in-person.

“There’s this kind of indescribable energy at the Beer Bike track when you have hundreds of students piled in to watch,” Reece said. “The feeling is completely nerve racking but also really exciting.”

Kendall Cooney, a Lovett College bike team captain, said she wishes there could have been an in-person crowd for last year’s Beer Bike relay race.

“I remember watching the livestream last year and the comments were great, but it definitely wasn’t the same [as being in-person],” Cooney, a junior, said. “I really wish that we could have shared [Lovett’s victory] with the whole college at the track, so I think I’m most excited is everyone being there to cheer the team on.”

Cooper Donnalley, a Beer Bike college coordinator from Brown College, said that they have also begun working to reorganize events in the week before Beer Bike in light of reduced Covid limitations.

“I’d say [Brown’s Beer Bike Coords] did a pretty good job of trying to think of some events in the Covid gray area,”  Donnalley, a sophomore, said. “Leaving that space has made it so that it isn’t much of a hassle to move stuff around. Now that we’re getting an ease up on [Covid] restrictions, we’re happy to drop those events and switch them out for more traditional Beer Bike events.”

Donalley said he was especially excited to have the ability to heavily contribute to the planning of Brown’s Beer Bike events. 

“As a Beer Bike coord, I have the opportunity to make the Beer Bike pretty much exactly as I want it to be,” Donalley said. “The amount of effort that I put in is going to be directly proportional to the experience that I get out… that’s something that’s really important to me and the other coords, and it’s been really fun to bring that pre-COVID culture and get people excited about it.”

Gorman said that, overall, the Beer Bike events will be much more similar in format to as they were pre-pandemic

“Planning for Beer Bike has presented similar challenges to other large events since COVID began,” Gorman said. “[Rice administration] continue[s] to discuss how to provide as typical an event as possible, given the circumstances. I’m pleased we’re at a point where COVID is declining in the greater Houston area and on our campus - that will help everyone involved organize a Beer Bike that is more similar to pre-COVID format than it was last year.”

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