By Bill Foley
Gina Evans loves nothing more than to see bicyclists roaming the trails of Southwestern Montana.
That is what made her decision so difficult.
Late Wednesday night, Evans pulled the plug on the 2020 season of her business, Linked Adventures, because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the globe.
“Opening would be selfish and irresponsible with the number of medical professionals and first responders that are on the front lines battling each day against this virus,” she said of running her shuttling cyclists business this season.
Evans’ job for six months out of the year is to see that cyclists get the most out of the trails that make her hometown her personal paradise.
She touts Linked Adventures as “Your headquarters for mountain bike shuttles, transportation, route planning, and full adventure planning for your groups in the greater Butte and surrounding Southwest Montana — including the Continental Divide Trail and other stunning terrain.”
Her job description includes anything possible to grow a sport that has been her lifelong passion.
She transports bikers to and from courses. She makes emergency runs to pick up riders in the Tour Divide. She does whatever it takes to make sure the riders have a good time and stay safe.
“People are coming through Butte all year,” Evans said Thursday. “I’ve brought people to the hospital and had their bike over at the bike shop at the same time.”
The business was never about money. She said she only takes in $5,000 to $7,000 over her sixth months. Instead, Evans is all about cycling.
Evans, a 1994 Butte High graduate, cannot ride like she used because of recurring injuries that followed a hit-and-run accident that nearly killed her in June 2010. The business is a way to stay close to the sport.
“I’m doing it because I want to stay involved in something that I love and what I grew up doing,” she said.
As part of her job, she finds sponsorship money so she can shuttle members of the Copper Sprockets, Butte’s new youth cycling team, to practices for free. She is also one of the coaches for the team.
Evans helps riders train for the Butte 100, an event in which she served as the race director for the first 11 years, through 2017. That involves shuttling to training rides, planning courses and setting up first aid stations.
She has even transported wedding parties for celebratory rides on the trails.
The 2020 season was going to be the fifth for Linked Adventures and Evans, who owns and operates the business mostly by herself. She gets a little help from her dad, she said.
“I’ve been told your five-year mark, in a business, is a telling point,” she said. “I was stoked for this summer.”
While her business was not mandated to shut down for the season, she decided to make the call on her own. She figures that the coronavirus will likely be a problem for several months, and she wants to do the responsible thing.
“I don’t see putting the search and rescue folks in harm’s way as being a good thing,” Evans said. “They don’t know what they’re walking into now, nobody does. If they’re going into an emergency.”
Evans is hoping her fellow cycling fanatics follow her lead. The same goes for all those who like to enjoy the outdoors, like hikers and climbers.
“Do the cautious thing and don’t do anything stupid to put other people in danger,” she said.
People can still enjoy the outdoors, Evans said. They just must keep in mind that the hospitals do not need the distractions of broken bones from unnecessary risks by outdoors men and women.
“Please be respectful for those who are on the front lines taking care of these people with the virus,” Evans said. “Don’t kamikaze down a mountain just because it’s fun.”
One silver lining to this pandemic lockdown is that more people seem to have time to enjoy all that Butte and Southwest Montana have to offer, even if it is in the less-extreme side.
“I like seeing that Butte is now exploring Butte,” Evans said. “I see people out running and out walking all over the place. We have some healthy people running around because they are doing what they should be doing anyway.”
Evans is hopeful that new sense of adventure will translate into a great 2021, if and when the quarantine is a thing of the past.
For now, Evans looking at next year with caution optimism.
“It’s sadness for me, for sure, because it’s a passion of mine,” she said of stepping away for a year. “But the passion can return in 2021.”