Wiggle Etape Cymru to dispense with closed roads for 2015?

Organisers seek to minimise disruption to local communities as councillor laments "four years of hell" for residents...

Next year’s Wiggle Etape Cymru may not take place on closed roads, or may have only partial closures according to organisers, in part to minimise the disruption to local people.

This year’s event, billed as “the UK’s toughest closed road sportive” saw more than 2,000 riders join former Wales and British & Irish Lions star Gareth Thomas last Sunday to tackle the 85-mile route.

BBC News North East Wales says that organisers had made some changes to this year’s route “to reduce the impact on certain areas,” were considering holding it on open roads, perhaps with some localised closures, next year.

Kirsty Wilde, operations director of Human Race which organises the event, said they had already told councillors and other relevant parties about potential changes, including holding it on open or partially open roads.

But while last year’s event was hit by sabotage as tacks and nails were spread on the road, she emphasised that riders received a friendly reception on Sunday, saying: "The cyclists were overwhelmed by local support throughout the route as lots of spectators welcomed them to their community and cheered them on with homemade signs giving them the extra push they required."

Denbighshire County Council’s lead member for leisure, Councillor Huw Jones, said: "This event is fast earning a reputation as a prestigious event in the cycling calendar, with increasing number of participants making their way to north east Wales to compete in the race."

The event has met with some opposition, however, with one local councillor claiming last month that residents of Penycae, the ward he represents, had endured “four years of hell” as a result of road closures associated with the one-day event.

Councillor John Phillips told News North Wales: “We have had year on year of this and the people of Penycae have had enough. Why should we lose out when other parts of the borough benefit financially?

 

“In this day and age it is totally unacceptable for this to happen. There are other parts of the county that have never had this race and it should be their turn.

“We have had four years of hell and it is time for a change. People have been made prisoners in their own homes.”

He went on: “The community of Penycae has been affected year on year by the long road closures and quite frankly residents need a break.

“There are many parts of Wrexham that offer the terrain and challenges that Penycae does and I would respectfully ask the race organisers to look at these locations for the 2015 event.”

At the time, Ms Wilde pointed out that Human Race had kept locals informed over plans for the route of the 2014 event, including holding drop-in sessions in partnership with Wrexham Council.

“Human Race have a strict post event review policy which includes route reviews and the collation and review of feedback received from the local community and the councils,” she explained.

“The 2013 review process also included attendance at the Wrexham scrutiny committee. As part of this process we identify and scrutinise all alternative routes available, considering their local impact and the safety of all involved and, where improvements can be made and are safe to do so, they will be implemented.

“Following the 2013 review we have implemented the recommendations that scrutiny submitted. These included for example a reduction in closure hours, and for Penycae not to be on the route twice.”
That resulted in the length of road closures at Penycae being cut from 10 hours to seven hours this year.

“We have reduced the closures in Wrexham by between three to four hours from last year,” she added.

The event which starts and finishes at Bangor-on-Dee racecourse and includes the climb of the Horseshoe Pass, raises significant amounts for charity, among them the Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham.

Its fundraising and events manager, Margaret Hollings, said: “The hospice is proud to be local charity partner to the Wiggle Etape Cymru again.

“It is a hugely successful local event for Nightingale House, attracting 55 participants from Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire.

“Judging by the success of the previous two years, the hospice could expect to benefit from more than £10,000 in sponsorship. This makes a real difference, funding local palliative care.

“We cannot thank the organisers Human Race enough for their support.”

Following this year’s event, Councillor Phillips accepted the role it plays in raising money for good causes.

"I'm totally for all the charities that benefit from this race - I must stress that,” he said.

"But I have asked the race organisers why we can't reduce the length of closures, or alternate the route somehow, so that the same places are not affected every time."

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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