The Tour of Cambridgeshire’s organisers have defended the event after local business owners claimed that the three-day cycling festival costs them up to £10,000 in lost revenue.
First held in 2015 and based in Peterborough, the Tour of Cambridgeshire was the UK’s first ever closed road Gran Fondo.
Alongside the Gran Fondo (which serves as a qualifying event for the UCI Gran Fondo world championships) this year’s festival, which takes place between 10 and 12 June, includes a sportive, time trials, road races, and family rides, all held on closed roads.
The festival also includes a cycling expo, live music and entertainment, camping facilities, and a food fair.
However, the road closures which form a central feature of the event (and a key attraction for cyclists from across the UK) have long drawn the ire of locals angry at the disruption caused by the weekend’s bike-related festivities.
Steve and Lynn Briggs, the owners of the Harvest Barn farm shop in Farcet, have told the Peterborough Telegraph that the road closures, which the couple claims force them to close the shop during the Tour of Cambridgeshire, will have a serious financial impact on their business.
The road outside the shop will be closed on Sunday 12 June between 10am and 7.15pm, and Lynn Briggs claims that they were not given any notice about the closures, and only found out after looking at the event’s website.
“We don’t get any compensation for the enforced closure and it’s not just the closure on Sunday that affects us – customers either struggle to get here on the Friday and Saturday as a result of other road closures around the area, or they assume we are closed for the whole of the event weekend,” she said.
“A summer’s weekend in June would normally be very busy for us and we will lose up to £10,000 as a result of the race – as we have done in all previous years the event has been on.”
The couple argue that changing the route of the Grand Fondo every year will ease the apparent strain on businesses in the area.
Briggs added: “The routes should be changed annually so that the burden of lost trade and residents not being able to leave their homes is spread across the whole of Cambridgeshire – not the same people and businesses year after year.
“It is totally unacceptable for our councillors and planners to allow this to go ahead year after year without any consultation.”
According to Cambridgeshire County Council, three complaints have been made about the event this year, while Shailesh Vara, the Conservative MP for North West Cambridgeshire, has called on the council and the festival’s organisers to engage more effectively with local residents and businesses.
“I have no issue with the event itself,” Vara said. “I am however very disappointed at the lack of proper consultation and advance warning being given to those directly affected by the event by Cambridgeshire County Council and the organisers.
“Business owners such as Lynn and Steve Briggs will be facing a financial loss as a direct result of this event and the least that can be done by the parties concerned is to engage with Lynn and others like her.”
However, a spokesperson for the Tour of Cambridgeshire’s organisers, Golazo, insisted that “a lot of effort and consideration goes into minimising the disruption caused” to the local community, and noted that the logistical complexity of organising a sportive prevents the organisers from regularly changing the route.
“A lot of thought has gone into the route incorporating consultation with the councils, both county and district, to ensure that we minimise the disruption caused to businesses,” the spokesperson said.
“As with all mass participation events, we also have to design a route that takes into account the safety of both participants and the general public, and it is not always easy to make changes.”
Golazo also emphasised the benefits of the event, both to charity and the local economy.
“We are of course grateful to the community and on the positive side our event is not only a major international sporting event it raises considerable funds for charity.
“The event directly supports multiple charities, including the Azaylia Foundation, set up to fight childhood cancer.
“You should also be aware that not only does the event bring economic benefit to the tune of £2.3 million to the region but large sums are spent using local suppliers and supporting local companies who rely on our event for their economic survival and recovery.
“In terms of communication, we have followed the advice given to us by the authorities about when notifications should be sent out. Detailed road closure maps are also available on our website.”
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.