The Vélo Birmingham and Midlands sportive, which had been due to take place on June 21, has been cancelled. Around 18,000 cyclists had registered to take part, but they will not be receiving refunds. Organisers explained they had already committed staging costs and say their insurance does not cover the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the cancellation of Vélo Birmingham & Midlands 2020,” said a spokesperson. “The event was due to take place on June 21st, at which time we are still likely to be significantly impacted by the current Coronavirus outbreak.
“HM Government are strongly advising against mass gatherings and non-essential travel and even if it is possible that the situation may have improved by June 21st (which seems far from certain), working restrictions and self-isolation recommendations mean that we are simply unable to complete the work necessary in the next few weeks to ensure that the event could proceed safely and with minimum support from and/or disruption to local emergency services, whose vital work is rightly focused on supporting public health needs through these exceptional circumstances.”
Charity fundraising places for the event were available from £20, but most entrants had paid a good deal more than this. Many had also booked travel and accommodation.
Organisers said entry fees would not be refunded, explaining that they had already made a significant outlay and their insurance did not cover the current situation.
“In common with virtually every other event organiser and business in the UK, whilst we carry extensive business disruption and event cancellation insurance, none of these policies cover the unprecedented circumstances of the current outbreak of COVID-19.
“In addition to losing our forecast revenue for the next three months, over the last 10 months we have already committed a huge amount of pre-paid staging, logistical and staffing costs towards this year’s event which are now unrecoverable. Put plainly, refunding participant entry fees now is not something our business could absorb.
“Although our Terms & Conditions of participation allow us to withhold refunds in these circumstances, we would never choose to exercise this in normal circumstances as cancellation would almost always result from an insurable event (e.g. poor weather) where money recovered from insurance is then used to refund riders. We hope you understand that this situation is completely unprecedented and could not have been foreseen by anyone.”
Amid much anger on social media, entrants have been asking whether their entries could at least be transferred to sister event Velo Essex, which is due to take place on September 20.
The Velo Birmingham website says that organisers would, “happily provide all 2020 Vélo Birmingham & Midlands entrants with a free entry into Vélo Essex 2020,” should that event go ahead.
Transfer is not currently an option however, as the viability of Velo Essex is also being reviewed.
Explaining why the event could not simply be postponed, the spokesperson said: “With an event the scale of Vélo Birmingham & Midlands, rescheduling 100 miles of road closures across seven different local authorities, in this time of crisis and strain on public services, is simply not going to be possible.”
This year’s National Road Championships are due to take place on the same course as Velo Birmingham.
Currently, British Cycling has suspended all sanctioned cycling activities until April 30, so the national championships – scheduled for June 18 (time trials) and June 20 (road races) – will remain in the calendar until the period beyond April 30 has been assessed.