GWR Organiser Speaks

it’s always nice to find out someone other than my wife, mother or bored clubmates actually read this blog. But with great power comes great responsibility….

I’ve had a comment from the organiser of the Great Weston Road ride in response to this post. Sometimes a post on a personal blog can generate a bit of debate. this one seems to have. In the interests of parity, i’ve printed the comment below:

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).

and now back to me. i understand his points and i appreciate the time he has taken to make them. i also stand by (most of the comments in) my original post:

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.

that trend is the uneasy relationship between sportives and road racing. and it pains me that a recreational ride should take precedence over a road race, it really does. The Colin Carfield Road Race has been running since the late 1990s and is one of the most significant road races in the southern district calendar. Racing cyclists make it the centre piece of their season, training from January onwards to arrive at the startline in peak condition. Last year it was won by James Dobbin, twice national hillclimb champion. I imagine the reason that CC organiser didn’t know the GWR was on that weekend was because it doesn’t require the same level of permissions from the local authorities. Hence my suggestion that sportives or non-sportives are subject to a form of regulation. This would help negate any calendar issues. This is called ‘date-fixing’.

i’m all for getting more people into the sport. these people may well end up racing, especially if they see the link between what our Bradley is doing in France somewhere and the type of events you might need to do to try and emulate this kind of performance (in your own small way). it would be nice if there are some races left for them to sign up for.

I don’t buy the popularity argument, that somehow 650 riders in a recreational ride are more important than the capped field of 150 in a road race, simply by dint that there are more of them. It’s the same logic that leads people to believe that Evans is the best bike shop. You end up with only Evans.

My point remains the same, and it’s fairly unconfrontational, there is no FACT (by which you can assume that i am not keen on the use of “FACT” as a capitalised bulletpoint, as though that somehow must therefore make it true because of the emphasis) about it. There is room for both in the calendar. whether it’s moving the start for a road race or omitting a climb for a non aggressive non race non ride chatty day out, it’s a shame some middle ground couldn’t be reached. I strongly suspect it is far harder to move a road race than it is to move a sportive or to change the route. I believe, and i’m not apologetic about this, that a key event in the Southern and even national road race calendar should take precedence over a recreational ride.

In hindsight, i would have changed one thing about the original post (but i won’t change it now, because that would defeat the value of hindsight and somehow make this blog temporally and philosophically scary) i wouldn’t have bundled the MCF and the GWR as one big uber sportivathon, because they are slightly different beasts, but there you go.

We could go back and forth about this for a while; it’s not a race, it is a race, sportives get people riding more than road races, and so on, and so forth. I’ve given the organiser the space on this (personal) blog and i think that debate is a good thing. I’d like to thank him for his comments and wish him luck with the race sportive recreational leisure ride.

4 thoughts on “GWR Organiser Speaks

Add yours

  1. Hi Paul. First thing to say, as you point out it’s your personal blog and you’ve every right to say, think, and write what you wish. However, with respect, you seemed to have completely missed the point about the fact that this race was in fact effectively cancelled by BC South in the first place. The organisers wanted to run it on 22nd July (as in the previous 2 years) and there’s no event (as far as I’m aware) already scheduled on those roads on that date. Happy days all round. But apparently thery weren’t allowed to use that date because there’s another race on in the region (NB in the region, NOT on the same roads!). Somewhere down near Portsmouth (yes – PORTSMOUTH!) so I’m told. It then moved to a date where an event was already scheduled on the same roads. Happened to be a cycling event, but could have been horses, motorbikes, ramblers, protesters, etc etc – point is, of the 52 Sundays in the year that one unfortunately just wasn’t a viable date on that circuit (that leaves 51 other dates and the 22nd was, of course, an option in terms of the roads).
    So I’d suggest that’s what needs looking at, or regulating, or whatever you want to call it.
    And for the record, I think you’ll find that I never said or even suggested that the 650 recreational riders were MORE IMPORTANT than the racers (though I’d be amazed if there were 150 taking part in the race!) so not sure where you got that one from.
    Also, some of your comments betray a lack of understanding of what actually goes into organising the GWR in particular (I’ve no idea in terms of other events, so will avoid making assumptions). But I’ve actually been involved with both rides and races, and I know full well which one I think takes the more organising!
    Finally, I just have to say that the little deliberate deletion at the end of your piece was a bit of a cheap shot, unworthy of much of what else you have to say, and tends to reinforce the ‘lack of understanding’ comment above.
    It might help if you were to experience the GWR first-hand so if you’d like to I’d be very happy to offer you a complimentary entry (same for a buddy, if you wish) so you can see it for yourself. That’s a genuine offer, you’de be very welcome, and I’d then welcome your informed views post-ride. Let me know, and my phone no. is on the ride website.

  2. thanks again for your comments, and for taking the time to reply. i’m a fan of the strikethrough and of levity. this was a lighthearted comment, not a cheap shot. i know this because i had some other cheap shots in there and i deleted them because i realised they were cheap shots, which i am not a fan of. you’ll see throughout this blog that there is liberal use of strikethrough and gentle humour.

    i understand that the race initial cancellation was via BC South. I made this clear in the above post, and the previous post. it was not down to GWR.

    i will not be able to take you up on your offer of a place, unfortunately, because i have a race in Wales that day. i rushed my entry in on hearing of the cancellation of Colin Carfield. However I’m sure there are about 150 others who are at a loose end that weekend who might be convinced to part with £23 for a good cause.

    Best wishes, no strikethrough.


    1. Thanks Paul – and apologies for not spotting the levity! It’s a pity you can’t make the GWR, but good luck with your race in Wales. And I appreciate your willingness to have a grown-up debate around this – hopefully there’s at least a little bit more light been shed, and maybe a few things for us all to think about.
      All the best.

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