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Business owners claim Tour of Cambridgeshire will cost them £10,000

“A lot of effort and consideration goes into minimising the disruption caused,” say the event’s organisers

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.

> Tour of Cambridgeshire launches Gran Fondo and Time Trial 

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.”

> Tour of Cambs makes dreams come true 

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.”

> Scottish woman in her 70s aims for World Championship spot - after five decades off the bike 

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 as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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47 comments

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dare99 | 1 year ago
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Done this for the past few years (covid permitting), and the people along the route are overwhelmingly supportive, although the smell of barbeques are a killer for the hungry cyclist 

When I last did it, I remember seeing one wheelie bin with a sign saying "We do not support our roads being closed". I'll tolerate one digruntled wheelie bin.

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jh2727 replied to dare99 | 1 year ago
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dare99 wrote:

When I last did it, I remember seeing one wheelie bin with a sign saying "We do not support our roads being closed". I'll tolerate one digruntled wheelie bin.

A royal wheelie bin?

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to dare99 | 1 year ago
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If that was 2019, there was also sand on the one bend near there where I imagine oil had been poured on that morning. 

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Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
13 likes

Just one point to add to this which I don't think anyone's noted, which is that the  Tour of Cambridgeshire has been running since 2015, while according to their own website Harvest Barn has been in operation since 2018. Why wasn't the ToC part of their business plan from the start like any other enforced closure such as Christmas Day or Easter Sunday? Given that the ToC was there first their complaints appear to be of a type with people who move to a rural village and then try and stop the church bells being rung, or people who move next door to a busy pub then try to have its hours reduced because they're being disturbed.

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Gus T | 1 year ago
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Of course they could also advertise that they are shut on Sunday but will stay open longer on Saturday to allow Sunday Customer's to get there to shop. But that would imply intelligence rather than entitlement.

 

 

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Dnnnnnn | 1 year ago
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The value of the profile they get for moaning in the press must be worth £10,000. Perhaps it's a conscious ploy...

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Rendel Harris replied to Dnnnnnn | 1 year ago
3 likes

Duncann wrote:

The value of the profile they get for moaning in the press must be worth £10,000. Perhaps it's a conscious ploy...

Could it become a new publicity truism, "Nobody ever lost money moaning about cyclists..."

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Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
5 likes

Interesting end of the article not quoted here, from the council:

“For this year’s Tour of Cambridgeshire we have received three complaints so far."

So one would assume that most businesses accept the benefits of £2.3M coming into the area and any inconvenience as a price worth paying.

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JMark | 1 year ago
2 likes

Ok, but looking at it from the owner's perspective for a minute, they are effectively forced to close their business (yes, could maybe pivot somehow, but why should they?) during the event which they have no interest in and don't see benefit from, every time it is on, and with scant consultation they claim. Why shouldn't they have a moan?

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Rich_cb replied to JMark | 1 year ago
1 like

Exactly.

They've acknowledged the benefit of the event but politely pointed out that it causes their business a significant financial loss and asked the organisers to look at ways of reducing that loss.

I imagine all this on here criticising them would be apoplectic if their income was reduced by 10% for one month every year in order to run an event.

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Secret_squirrel replied to JMark | 1 year ago
4 likes

The owners don't own the roads which are a public good.  One weekend isn't unreasonable and roughly inline with a road closure for maintenance.

They also appear to run a coffee shop on the premises, if they had any nouse whatsoever they'd be coining it in with a takeaway service that weekend but they'd rather be moany c***s.

 

 

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Rich_cb replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like

The private company running the event doesn't own the roads either.

You're assuming there'd be people outside their shop to sell coffee to.

Looking at the map their business is on a rural A road with no pavements, I doubt they'd sell a single cup.

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chrisonatrike replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
1 like

They may well have a point.  However by and large our ideology is "public property - but private business often gets priority on the use of this resource".  In theory their gains eventually come back to everyone but I'm not convinced we've done our sums honestly on this. (Bit like the "we can't break even on our ferry service - but we will continue paying billions out to our owners".) More homework for me to do...

Not directly addressing their complaint but you're pointing out their cafe business is entirely predicated on cars?  Nothing unusual about this currently.  If we're bothered about these pollution / health / resilience / viability of the countryside / "beautiful places" (thanks Mr. Gove) / climate change issues we should be trying to set our business, transport and housing policies avoid this kind of development in the future however.  Or rather - if it's the norm that businesses are built around car-dependency we've not got something right.

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Rich_cb replied to chrisonatrike | 1 year ago
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It looks like it's a farm shop and cafe based on an actual farm so, unsurprisingly, it's not well served by public transport or even pavements.

I'd agree that we should be eliminating car dependency wherever possible but I'm not sure it is possible in this case.

 

 

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chrisonatrike replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
3 likes

Note that "No pavements" is a choice we've made of course.  I don't know about public transport but I do see this very shop is about 4 miles from the edge of Peterborough - not a small place.  It is in a generally sparsely settled place of course.  Plus the fens do tend to give you long, straight roads and lots of waterways.  So bad for speeding cars or alternative routes.  However it's nothing like places in the regions just outside where I stay (in the Scottish central belt).

In the UK it might seem "not possible"... but as is often the case a look across the North sea will give us a contrast. Consider Drenthe, one of the least densely populated regions of the Netherlands.  At one point strip-mined for peat, along with neighbouring Groningen and Friesland - so parts are formerly an "industrial landscape" too.  They have made themselves a cycling tourist region and there most definitely are rural attractions which people cycle to:

https://youtu.be/zN4gGCXcMG0?t=319

Of course this kind of tourism is even more common where population is denser:

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/cycling-through-the-heath/

Here's how to encourage it:

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/recreational-cycling-in-the-netherlands-2/

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brooksby replied to chrisonatrike | 1 year ago
2 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

Note that "No pavements" is a choice we've made of course.

Back in Olden Times, all these rural roads didn't have Mr Toad racing along them so it wasn't a problem, and the funding and land was never made available to retrofit them once it did become a problem.

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chrisonatrike replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
5 likes

Can't find the quote but think I read it in one of Carlton Reid's excellent historical works - a UK minister from times past (1920s?) was moaning that people still didn't respect the car but would have to learn to get out of the roads the same as dogs, chickens and other livestock.  Very much "you will get used to it".  Can't remember if the "or else" was stated or not.

I think at the time occasional Mr. Toads running people over were accepted on the grounds that the drivers were a) of a higher social class than the victims or b) at least clearly much richer - a good proxy for good character as long as they weren't foreign.  After all they would hardly be deliberately damaging their own cars or otherwise inconveniencing themselves, would they?

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chrisonatrike replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
2 likes

The Netherlands countryside tourism model is of course based on the car, like in the UK.  The difference is that there are alternatives.  Key parts are:

A good rail transport system, where (with your standard transport card) you can also rent a bike under a popular national scheme at most stations (even small unmanned ones).
A network of protected cycle routes...
...even in the countryside (I believe if a route is needed between two places outside an urban area it's done as a cycle route by default - with pedestrians of course permitted - unless there will be lots of pedestrians) ...
...with a handy point-to-point navigation system (also here).
Like a proper version of the UK National Cycle Network there is also some attention given to ensuring long distance cycle routes between places are made not just possible but more convenient.

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chrisonatrike replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
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You inspired me to take a look (on the map) as I'm currently staying a bit north of Peterborough and have been a few miles from there (I drove, I'm afraid...)

So worst case:  Google says their farm is 6 miles to Peterborough station.  That's on the East Coast main line.  For a more regional alternative depending on route it's between 5.3 / 6.4 miles to Whittlesea station (two separate routes).

Now I'm not sure I'd specifically take the train then cycle there myself (some of the roads likely not so pleasant).  However that's just about within most people's abilities.  That's by the "time the general public will put up with travelling" criterion e.g. around 30 minutes at a moderate speed (it's flat...).

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Simon E replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
4 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

I'd agree that we should be eliminating car dependency wherever possible but I'm not sure it is possible in this case.

That sounds a bit defeatist to me. "This is not Amsterdam".

Sometimes I wonder whether you aren't really keen to reduce car use or promote cycling and active travel, merely reinforce the (unsustainable and harmful) status quo. Shouldn't we be looking for ways to succeed rather than not even trying?

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chrisonatrike replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
1 like

I guess you could argue given how we've done so far - and our future plans - this is still realistically impossible for any given likely future.  However like a teacher at an inner-city school I'd suggest we need to keep believing in much better even while being realistic about where we are.  This is because we're still dealing with humans and their beliefs and motivation, not with facts of physics.  Without aiming at the stars we will definitely fall in the gutter and achieve nothing. (Whether we do so anyway is for history to tell the future.)

Luckily this particular situation is almost an open-and-shut case of "how we are at the moment in the UK" combined with "but with fairly small interventions (compared to e.g. a few hundred metres of new motorway or HS2 line or money subsidising Cars 2.0) - already proven in several other countries - we could fix this exact objection".

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dare99 replied to Rich_cb | 1 year ago
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With all those cyclists coming past? I doubt it!

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Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago
5 likes

Surely they could embrace some entrepreneurial spirit and find ways to make money off both the competitors and spectators, after all that's what good businesses do, not rely on knee jerk reactions and pleading for help from the council.
Unfortunately we live in a society that primarily thinks only of itself these days. I'm surprised with their attitude they are even in business at all.
There's always an opportunity for a sales stream if you are willing to look outside of the day to day operations.

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago
4 likes

Good point. Offer something new on the day - there will be loads of people in the area. Sell  'rip - off coffee' or something.  Everyone else does at these events. 

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Simon E replied to Owd Big 'Ead | 1 year ago
4 likes

Owd Big 'Ead wrote:

Surely they could embrace some entrepreneurial spirit and find ways to make money off both the competitors and spectators

My thoughts too.

This is a planned event that brings a significant amount of money to the local economy. But farmers are always top of the class when it comes to moaning. I should know, I grew up in a small farming community and my colleages and I deal with them every day.

How would they cope if the shop was inaccessible for a day or two due to a burst water main or roadworks? And do they really think that people can't arrange to visit the farm shop on other days of the week?

It seems from the facebook post that they are only closed on the Sunday. I have written a revised version:

"This is a fantastic, nationally unique event which we support wholeheartedly. Our customers may have difficulty getting to our shop on Sunday 12 June due to the brief road closure. We have anticipated this and can get round the road closure by [insert creative solutions].

We have put up bunting and hope the riders, their families and friends will pop in to sample our range of delicious foods while they are in the area."

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dare99 replied to Simon E | 1 year ago
1 like

Given the cock up by the ToC organisers meaning they'd run out of snacks and water for the last quarter of the Gran Fondo riders, I'd have welcomed a farm shop open last time I rode it!

A square of flapjack at mile 80 didn't really fill me up!

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David9694 | 1 year ago
1 like

Tell me you're car-dependent without telling me...

https://www.facebook.com/harvestbarnfarmshop/posts/pfbid0JyaGdATFop9JQwS...

Debbie White
I agree Steph. Its Godmanchester show that weekend that has now closed so I can't get my entry fees back. I have just emailed Steve Barclay. Its beyond a joke that it always the same people that get affected every year and its for a long time each day too. I tell you now, if one of my animals needs a vet I will be driving through them!
 

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Rendel Harris replied to David9694 | 1 year ago
1 like

David9694 wrote:

Tell me you're car-dependent without telling me...

This one on Twitter last week is a real classic...

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David9694 replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

George says he's a cyclist and also that he's a retired GP. He lost Penny a horse in December 2021.  Conor Roberts is in New Zealand. 

colic is indeed a nasty condition for horses, but I'd be impressed with any arrangement that alerted an owner to an onset in the dead of night. 

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ktache | 1 year ago
4 likes

Any reason why they have to close the shop? Surely not difficult to deal with the road closure, remain open and sell overpriced refreshments to spectators.

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