British Cycling and cycling event organiser Pendragon Sports Ltd have announced today that the eagerly-anticipated Tour of Wessex Premier Calendar road race has been cancelled. The event was set to accompany the established and popular Tour of Wessex Cyclosportive event in May — which will still go ahead as planned. British Cycling chief executive Peter King said: “The sad cancellation of this Premier Calendar event is in no way a reflection upon the organiser and British Cycling will continue to support Pendragon Sports Ltd in its bid to run a race alongside the Tour of Wessex in 2009.”
In recent weeks Pendragon and British Cycling had proposed a simplified one day race to try to overcome objections from Somerset Highways and Avon and Somerset Police. Unfortunately this was not successful due to temporary traffic restrictions on the race’s proposed route. Commenting on the news, Pendragon’s Nick Bourne said: “The new format of the event with a Premier Calendar race alongside the popular Tour of Wessex Cyclosportive was proving tremendously popular so I am disappointed it cannot go ahead this year.” He added: “Both Pendragon Sports and Somerset Country Council remain committed to the idea of a Premier Calendar event alongside a cyclosportive and planning is already underway for the 2009 event.
The 2008 Tour of Wessex Cyclosportive is set to have a record number of participants this year, so we hope that despite the Premier Calendar not being run that it will still be a great event and ultimately that it will encourage more people to participate in cycling.” Despite the setbacks with The Tour of Wessex and Archer GP Elite men’s road racing remains healthy in 2008, with ten events in the Premier Calendar series (starting this weekend with the Bikeline 2 day event), two international road events, and of course the National Road Race Championships. In additional there are now a total of eleven events in the Elite Men’s Circuit Race Series events. Organisers are continuing to work closely with British Cycling to secure more opportunities to race on the highway however changes are now desperately required to legislation to create an environment where events on the highway can flourish.
Peter King went on to say: “British Cycling is dedicated to ensuring cycle racing on the public highway remains a safe, enjoyable and exhilarating sport and is taking issues to the heart of government.”
British Cycling will be submitting a report to the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and Ministers to detail the current issues and challenges which are affecting all sporting events on the highway and in particular cycling. Set to be submitted at the end of March, this report will call for a series of measures to be implemented as part of a cross Government departmental approach to implement the legislation, co-ordination and the standardisation necessary to allow sport on the highway to flourish.
These measures will allow participation in ‘grass roots’ cycle racing to grow, helping the government meet its stated aim of increasing participation in sport and helping to develop new cycling talent, further improving Great Britain’s results at international events through to London 2012 and beyond. In addition, British Cycling experts are working with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Home Office in an attempt roll out the recently piloted Community Safety Accreditation Scheme nationally.
This national training programme will ensure that there is a resource of accredited race marshals with the power to legally stop and control traffic in a road event situation. The scheme, which improves the safety of races and reduces the level of police resource needed for each event, was first introduced in Essex and Gwent in 2007. It is currently being introduced in the rest of Wales and British Cycling hopes to introduce it in other areas in the future. British Cycling is also working with the Home Office to ensure that trained volunteers — rather than just paid employees — can be granted accredited powers to stop and direct traffic during a British Cycling sanctioned road event.