A number of participants in Sunday’s inaugural ‘Etape Cymru’ sportive have voiced their concern over the safety and organisation of the event
Riders have reported a number of crashes and injuries, along with insufficient supplies of food and water at the feed zones and poor signage at critical points along the course.
The Etape Cymru planned to take participants through 100 miles of the spectacular yet often overlooked scenery around Wrexham and Denbighshire, the highlight of which was to be the traverse of the Horseshoe Pass.
It was also billed as only the second closed-road sportive in the UK, after the Etape Caledonia, which led to the event commanding an entry fee of £65.
This fee also included a free gilet and British Cycling RIDE membership, along with the usual fare of nutritional products, timing chips and mechanical support.
Numerous accounts have described a catalogue of errors; these range from small administrative delays, to more serious issues that appear to have presented a significant danger to participants.
Writing on their blog, ‘The Cycling Mayor’ detailed the lack of supplies at the three food stations and the delayed mass start, which saw 1000 starters take to narrow roads at once.
The scenery was commended, yet greasy October roads with poor surfaces seem to have led to a high number of punctures and many riders struggling with the more challenging gradients.
A £5 refund was also provided to participants to cover the unit cost of the free gilets that were promised yet failed to materialise – a fault attributed to the suppliers.
Local businesses also suffered from a loss of trade due to closed roads – an impact which suggests a basic lack of organisation for an event that was designed to
increase spending in the region.
Local news website Wrexham.com reported that course signs had often been tampered with or removed, leaving riders lost and compromising the competition element of the event.
Loosely attached timing chips and a shortened route also played a part in detracting from the experience that the event promised to offer, leaving many riders disappointed.
Perhaps most worrying, riders reported that marshals responsible for policing the road closures were seemingly untrained or simply absent. Motorists often ignored the signs and in some cases, the combination of poor signage and lack of marshals led to multiple rider crashes on sharp corners.
Writing into Cycling Weekly, one rider observed that these were incidents to which medical services struggled to attend, due mainly to the volume of riders on narrow roads.
Riding on roads in the expectation that they are closed to cars is more dangerous than riding on open roads with the knowledge that cars are present.
Riders who took part in the event have been sent an explanatory email from the organisers, K-Extreme, outlining the reasons behind the problems. The details of this email seem to offer little explanation but explain that 2012 edition of the event will seek to address and rectify them all.
Mike Turner, organiser from K-Extreme, was unavailable to comment.
The event clearly has potential to add to the market for sportives in the UK – in particular due to the beautiful and challenging route along closed roads. Furthermore, the support of local residents was reported by regular sportive riders to have been amongst the best they have experienced.
Yet serious questions must now be asked as to why an event such as this was allowed to take place with the problems that have been encountered. In particular the role of British Cycling, which supported the event, must be carefully scrutinised and improved.
Participants have left feeling annoyed and out of pocket, but the fact that the majority avoided more serious harm is something for which both they and the organisers should be grateful.
Did you ride the Etape Cymru? If you have experiences that you would like to share, please email Cycling Weekly at: firstname.lastname@example.org