On November the 22nd a statement from Velothon Wales owner IRONMAN revealed that last summer’s sportive, based in Cardiff city centre and running into the Brecon Beacons, would be its last. It was just four years old.
I rode the first event in 2015 and it remains one of the highlights of my time writing for Cycling Plus. A 140km closed-road event in the mould of RideLondon, just less chock-a and with a proper mountain challenge half way through in the shape of the beastly Tumble climb. It was fast and furious fun.
The only substance regarding its closure in the statement said it was “unfortunate that we are unable to find a sustainable model for future events”. A spokesman for local delivery partner Run4Wales told me that despite 8,000 cyclists taking part in 2018, numbers had “steadily” declined over the past two editions and, with rising costs of closing 140km of roads throughout Wales, the event had a become a financial risk.
That entries have declined could be down to several factors, including declining disposable incomes, a plateauing of the bike boom in the UK that saw a handful of these types of mega sportive spring up, and maybe riders just losing interest in an event that didn’t change its route over its lifetime.
On the whole, though, Twitter comments below the statement were of regret from cyclists that such a decent event was no more. For Wales and Cardiff to lose its premier amateur cycling event in a year when Cardiff hero Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France was a real shame.
Of course, not everyone mourned its demise and the BTL comments over at the South Wales Argus were, predictably, largely poisonous. Few stories whip up the anti-cyclist brigade into a frenzy like closed road cycling event stories, and it wasn’t long before delight at its closure (“Best news this week” – Car 5 and “Thank Christ!” – TheTruthSayer) had morphed into a shouting match about the fictional road tax and scorn at “Lycra lunatics” – ButlerCabin.
Events like Velothon Wales, where road closures might cause inconvenience for a finite length of time, are incompatible with the brand of individualism that’s so rampant throughout our society. “How dare they inconvenience me!”
If only it was contained within BTL comments. In that 2015 event people were seriously injured by people throwing pins and nails on the ground on descents – brainless actions that, in the worst-case scenario, would warrant, at the very least, a manslaughter charge.
It’s a similar story, with added razor blades, over at Velo Birmingham & Midlands, which debuted in 2017 but delayed the second until 2019 as they changed the route and ironed out the issues they had when hosting the debut.
I always thought that these big, closed-road ‘event’ events would be the future of sportives in the UK, but given they are so expensive to stage and such a logistical headache – Velo Birmingham’s course stretches through multiple counties – once the interest begins to fade, perhaps they become to much of a risk for the organisers, who, when all said and done, are looking to spin a profit.