Real Race Cancelled by not a Real Race Race

The sun is out today. it feels like the first time in living memory. For the generation who have never seen the giant orange orb making its diurnal progress across the sky it feels like a significant moment.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday to be precise, the sun was buried beneath a suffocating weight of cloud cover. i headed out to Didmarton to tackle a hardrider event against some of the finest riders in all the land. Rob Pears, Ben Anstie and Jeff Jones all headed up the startsheet, with Jeff Jones fresh from his 3rd place in the National 50 Mile Championship.

It’s a lumpy two lap circuit. I was 3rd last year, but some way back on 2nd. I suspected a worse placing but faster time might lie in wait this year, but alas, never got to find out. The ridiculous amounts of rain (wettest april, may, june and start to july on record, apparently) meant the event was cancelled. It was a tough decision to make, but the right one. There were lakes of standing water big enough to drown a horse and rider.

I then missed the interclub due to work commitments. I had both these events down as part of my seriously heavy training block in the run up to the Colin Carfield Road Race. This race is also now cancelled. In this instance, the event was refused a licence. It’s quite a contentious issue. Essentially, there is a sportive on the same day that uses one of the key climbs in the race, Burrington Coombe. Sportives do not require a licence from the local constabulary, road races do. Sportives aren’t a race, famously, whereas road races are a race, unsurprisingly. Therefore, when it comes to a clash of events, the police can do little else apart from rescind the road race licence.

There is a significant wider issue here. Whilst sportives undoubtedly bring new riders to the sport, they are not a key part of the fabric of british cycling. they are often organised for profit, sometimes under the dubious aegis of a ‘for charity’ status. There’s an interesting article here. They are the johnny-come-lately of the cycling world, a recent development cashing on the rampant success of the current bike boom and the disposal income of most of the participants. Google ‘cycling is the new golf’, or ‘mamil‘ for further reading.

There are some well-established sportives. Many of these emerged from the older tradition of reliability rides like the Ride of the Falling Leaves. These tend to not ride roughshod (no pun intended) over the established racing calendar, and are run by clubs at a grassroots level. There are also some real leviathans like the Dragon Ride, or the Tour of the Peak, both established and carefully organised events. Then there are official British Cycling sanctioned road races. The Colin Carfield Road Race is one of the few extremely tough and hilly road races in the Mendips at 234 level. It is a huge draw and a notoriously challenging event. The finish a few years ago saw broken riders limping home in ones and twos, people were dribbling over the line like they’d been brutally assaulted by some kind of mendip beast. It’s getting on for 70 miles with 4000 feet of climbing and is usually run off at around a 23mph average speed.

I’m not sure that the Great Weston Ride is at fault for the cancellation per se.They are entitled to use the roads. They are entitled to meet the target audience of people who want to ride 55 miles in 5 to 6 hours. However, it is indicative of an alarming trend. In a similar vein, the BSCC Road Race had to be moved from its original date due to the ‘Mario Cipollini Gran Fondo’. It was nothing short of miraculous that the organiser managed to get another date and retain the complex support services needed to run the race. The CipoFondo had the feed station to end all feed stations. It’s so ridiculous i’m going to reprint it here:

MENU 1st feed station Approx. 40km into the ride
You will find a selection of:
– Homemade Pea and Ham soup served with a warm Ciabatti bread
– Penne with Chilli sauce Served with Guacamole, Sour Cream and a sprinkle of Parmesan
– Triangle slices of Spanish Tortilla
– Chicken Basque Espuna
– Free Range Chicken with Spicey chorizo sausage, Potato with Serrano Ham, 
Olives and Pimenton Papria Served on a bed of rice
– Welsh Rarebit slices served with pickle
– Homemade Lemon Drizzle cake with Our own Lemon Curd
– Teas and Espresso Coffee

MENU 2nd feed station Approx. 83km into the ride
You will find a selection of:
– – Onion & bacon
– – Goat’s cheese & roasted red pepper or
– Broccoli

– Mushroom jalousie
– Squash & goat’s cheese pocket
– Sweet potato & spinach pocket
– Cheese & potato pasty

Freshly made olive + rosemary focaccia
Cheese & pesto foccacia
All the above served with salad with honey and balsamic dressing, slice of cake (gluten free + vegan items available) and tea, coffee, juice or spring water

It’s like one of Jay Gatsby’s smörgåsbords crossed with a Bob Diamond Sunday lunch, toasting the week’s libor rate submissions. It’s un-fucking-believable. BSCC moved the road race because they didn’t need a licence to run their absurdly opulent, thinly-veiled bike-marketing opportunity, whereas BSCC did need a licence to run a competitive road race that feeds into the hierarchy of the sport and supports British Cycling.

Sportives have a place in the calendar and in the cycling fraternity, their popularity is going from strength to strength and they provide a degree of challenge to those joining the sport. However, that place in the calendar is categorically not on the same day as a road race. The level of organisation required to run a competitive road race is in a different league to a sportive, and it’s done by volunteers, club members, at a grass roots level, and with the support of British Cycling in a symbiotic relationship. As the level of interest in sportives grows and grows, there is becoming a need for licensing and regulation. One of the singular oddities that means they don’t require the same level of permissions is the ‘not a race’ element. However, times are listed and participants are increasingly racing in all but name.

Due to legal restrictions we are not able to give more details on the results than provided here. We are very sorry of that causes frustration on your part. It certainly does on ours but our hands are tied. I hope you understand and still enjoyed the event for what it is – non competitive. If you have any questions regarding the timing or can’t find your name on the lists please get in touch with us

Hence the rather pained disclaimer on the front webpage of the MCF, somehow simultaneously bemoaning the lack of a race finishing order and also saying just how non-competitive they are at the same time. I can bet the riders of the MCF weren’t as frustrated at the lack of times in the non-race-race as the riders who were due to line up in the Colin Carfield Memorial Road Race race next weekend.

6 thoughts on “Real Race Cancelled by not a Real Race Race

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  1. Hi. I’m the organiser of the Great Weston Ride, the event taking place on the same date the Colin Carfield was scheduled for, and I’d like to pick up on some of the points raised above, if I may.
    Firstly, I’m very familiar with road races – my son is a 2nd cat who races regularly, I act as a Club Welfare Officer, and I’ve been involved in organising and marshalling at various road races in the region. So, trust me, I had no desire whatsoever to see this cancellation. But, in this particular instance, in relation to the Great Weston Ride there are one or two assumptions and erroneous conclusions in the piece above that need addressing, and I just felt that one or two actual FACTS wouldn’t go amiss.
    FACT – the Great Weston Ride is most definitely NOT a race (nor, indeed, would I describe it as a sportive). We don’t use timing chips and no finishing times are published. And we actively encourage people to stop en route! We do our utmost to emphasise that it’s a RIDE and not a RACE.
    FACT – this is an official BC registered and sanctioned recreational cycling event.
    FACT – the GWR is getting more people cycling, and more people interested in cycling, which can only be good for the sport as a whole.
    KEY FACT – the GWR ran on the same weekend in 2011 and 2010. The Colin Carfield was actually run on the following weekend in each of those years, and was originally scheduled to do so again in 2012 until the organisers were told by BC South that they couldn’t have that date. It might therefore be time better spent asking BC South why they refused the application to run the race on July 22nd. So, as you can see, in this instance there was no ‘riding roughshod’ over the racing calendar.
    FACT – so when the race organisers rearranged, THEY moved the race to the same date that the GWR was already scheduled, obviously without knowing about it.
    FACT – it simply would not have been safe to run a race along roads where 650+ leisure riders would be strung out, all going at their own pace, chatting, taking in the sights, etc etc – granted, not everyone’s cup of tea (esp. among the racing fraternity), but that’s what you would have encountered, and there should be room for ALL types of cyclists.
    There are other points raised that I would politely dispute (eg levels of organisation required), but the key point here is that the GWR was already in situ – it was the road race that moved from its traditional date, and it’s BC South that need to explain that one.
    I discussed the situation with the race organisers and wanted to find a workable solution for all concerned (a later start for the race seemd the most viable option to me), but obviously for whatever reason the race organisers (or others) decreed that the best/only option was to cancel.
    So I AM very sorry that the race had to be cancelled, and of course I can understand people’s frustrations at that outcome, but hopefully you’ll now agree the cancellation was not in any way the GWR’s fault (as the article, to be fair, suggests might be the case).

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