A number of participants in Sunday’s inaugural ‘Etape Cymru’ sportive have voiced their concern over the safety and organisation of the event

Riders have reported a number of crashes and injuries, along with insufficient supplies of food and water at the feed zones and poor signage at critical points along the course.

The Etape Cymru planned to take participants through 100 miles of the spectacular yet often overlooked scenery around Wrexham and Denbighshire, the highlight of which was to be the traverse of the Horseshoe Pass. 

It was also billed as only the second closed-road sportive in the UK, after the Etape Caledonia, which led to the event commanding an entry fee of £65.

This fee also included a free gilet and British Cycling RIDE membership, along with the usual fare of nutritional products, timing chips and mechanical support.

Numerous accounts have described a catalogue of errors; these range from small administrative delays, to more serious issues that appear to have presented a significant danger to participants.

Writing on their blog, ‘The Cycling Mayor’ detailed the lack of supplies at the three food stations and the delayed mass start, which saw 1000 starters take to narrow roads at once.

The scenery was commended, yet greasy October roads with poor surfaces seem to have led to a high number of punctures and many riders struggling with the more challenging gradients.

A £5 refund was also provided to participants to cover the unit cost of the free gilets that were promised yet failed to materialise – a fault attributed to the suppliers.

Local businesses also suffered from a loss of trade due to closed roads – an impact which suggests a basic lack of organisation for an event that was designed to

increase spending in the region.

Local news website Wrexham.com reported that course signs had often been tampered with or removed, leaving riders lost and compromising the competition element of the event.

Loosely attached timing chips and a shortened route also played a part in detracting from the experience that the event promised to offer, leaving many riders disappointed.

Perhaps most worrying, riders reported that marshals responsible for policing the road closures were seemingly untrained or simply absent. Motorists often ignored the signs and in some cases, the combination of poor signage and lack of marshals led to multiple rider crashes on sharp corners.

Writing into Cycling Weekly, one rider observed that these were incidents to which medical services struggled to attend, due mainly to the volume of riders on narrow roads.

Riding on roads in the expectation that they are closed to cars is more dangerous than riding on open roads with the knowledge that cars are present.

Riders who took part in the event have been sent an explanatory email from the organisers, K-Extreme, outlining the reasons behind the problems. The details of this email seem to offer little explanation but explain that 2012 edition of the event will seek to address and rectify them all.

Mike Turner, organiser from K-Extreme, was unavailable to comment.

The event clearly has potential to add to the market for sportives in the UK – in particular due to the beautiful and challenging route along closed roads. Furthermore, the support of local residents was reported by regular sportive riders to have been amongst the best they have experienced.

Yet serious questions must now be asked as to why an event such as this was allowed to take place with the problems that have been encountered. In particular the role of British Cycling, which supported the event, must be carefully scrutinised and improved.

Participants have left feeling annoyed and out of pocket, but the fact that the majority avoided more serious harm is something for which both they and the organisers should be grateful.

Did you ride the Etape Cymru? If you have experiences that you would like to share, please email Cycling Weekly at: cycling@ipcmedia.com

  • Dancer Morris

    May I as a resident living on the course of last weeks debacle make a few comment’s.

    The organisers say residents were informed, yes a few were, just a few days before the event, the vast majority appear to have been kept in the dark, one farmer I know did not know until the night before when my wife phoned to ask how they were going to cope with the lane being closed, the race was passing within yards of this farm house, surely one of the organisers could have realised that closing this single track lane may caused problems, yet nobody thought of talking to the farmer, is there any wonder there were vehicle’s on the course.

    K-Extreme made a mealy mouthed apology for any inconvenience caused, I would suggest being locked in your house for up to 8 hours is more than an inconvenience, yes 8 hours, because some clot decided to use the A 525 twice! life cannot just stop for a day, people still have to get to work, farmers still have to tend their livestock, I wonder how many of the competitor’s would accept being locked in all day.

    I hope riders enjoyed their day out riding in our roads, but if it is to be run again may I make the following suggestions.

    (1) It should be run by an organisation capable of running such an event, clearly K-Exterme are not.

    (2) Local people should be consulted, not ignored, as stated above, car clubs have knocked on peoples doors before running rallies, this helps them as well as us, get people on board instead of antagonising them.

    (3)Accept that we can-not have fully closed roads without severely inconvenienceing people, some business’s may have done quite well out of this event, but I bet just as many have lost a lot of business, simply because they were cut off.

  • Rachel Clarke

    My fiance was riding this event, as i left the starting place I travelled towards the horseshoe pass, to my horror, I came to a junction crossroads with no marshalls, I jumped outa my car and stood in the road so as the lost riders who assumed that they were on closed roads, didnt cycle around the corner into a stream of oncomming traffic, A local lady helped me as then the riders on the correct route started streaming down the hill towards the Duke of Wellington pub, NOW two lines of cyclist flowing down the hill and also around the corner, I was worried for all of them and so early into the course, what other dangers might be ahead! after about 15 minutes a van pulled up and a man got out and I shouted are you marshals? He replied yes! so I said well why werent you here for gods sake! he replied that he didnt get up till halfpast eight. Out of the van came two young girls one indian and one I think chinese niether had ever marshalled and had volunteerd, they also didnt speak or understand english very well. When ya loved ones are in a event like this we demand safety for our husbands, sons and family. After having a bright yellow coat thrown at me the van disappeared, leaving me, to organise these girls, and I did the best that I could. I was left worrying and found it impossible to get to the feed stations where I just wanted to cheer my man on. I went back to the start at wrexham and waited hearing reports of injuies food running out and no WATER… What a relief to me when my guy (Paul Thatcher) came howling over the finish line. Please Please be more organised next year in all aspects, for the safety of everybody cyclists and the families waiting to see them achieve this much loved sport…..

  • Ed Fisher

    I live in Carrog which was the half way feed station. The Village Hall rallied round when the feed station ran dry. Every one was delighted to have helped and by and large thoroughly enjoyed the event.It was poorly organised but I spoke to a good number of the riders and most despite the attendant difficulties seemed to be enjoying the challenge. I certainly hope that it happens again next year but is much better managed. Through the sales of drinks and cakes the Village Hall gained in the region of £150 towards the upkeep of the hall, very welcome. The village will certainly be better prepared having learnt from this inaugural event and will welcome all of you back with even better fare. Ed

  • Martin

    Lets face it, if 1000’s of cyclists are willing to part with large amounts of money to ride on public roads, who can blame the organisers for cashing in? Most cycling mags are just A4 adverts for sportives nowadays, I cancelled my subscription and told the publishers as much when asked. Join a club or hook up with friends and enjoy Britains scenery without having it sold to you.

  • Mike

    I live about a 5 hour drive away, and so I drove up late on the Friday night to make sure I would make registration on the Saturday.
    Friday night I got an email to say the Gilet, which we were told was worth £20, and had therefore pushed the entry fee up accordingly, was not going to be available for riders, as the suppliers had let them down, so I got a £5 refund, which was when alarm bells started ringing.
    Saturday morning I got another email to say you could not park at the actual Tetra pac area on the day of the ride, so when I went to registration I asked one of the people there the directions to where I could park the next day, but they didn’t know, there were no signs or maps either. I also noticed, with approximately 1500 riders due to start the next day, there were only 7 portaloos as well, nowhere near enough especially as it was a mass start.
    As I hadn’t seen much of the course, only bits on google street view, I decided to go and look at parts of it in the afternoon, and based on my profession as a Police officer I decided, with the amount of riders forecast, as well as the weather forecast which said there would be heavy rain, I decided not to ride on the Sunday, for several reasons.
    The first one, as I close roads regularly at accidents etc, with the amount of small roads involved and junctions as well, there was no way on earth that they would be able to keep motor vehicles off the course; it’s not enough to put signs out saying the road is closed, you also need someone stood there to physically stop vehicles sometimes, as signs can and do get ignored.
    I was also very wary of the lack of organisation, as well as amateurishness which seemed to be emanating from everywhere, it all seemed profit motivated. The timing chip was stuck onto my bike race number with sellotape, and the goody bag contained a cheap multi-tool, a sample zip fit gel, a packet of kung fu panda stickers(!), the rest of it was a load of touristy leaflets, and wasn’t what I would call a ‘goody bag’.
    The damage I feel is done now, they’re going to have to do something extraordinary to try and get riders for next year, and with no experience other than this debacle, I don’t see how they can turn it around.

  • barry davies

    anybody in this area knew it would be impossible to close all the roads, a friend of mine , who is a top vet racing cyclist, rang both the organisers/council/police to get conformation that all the roads would be closed and safe to ride, and there was no definate answer..
    Somebody has made a lot of money from this event !!!

  • NEG Dave

    Most of the readers who follow road racing will be familiar with the NEG ( National Escort Group ) who provide motorcycle marsfal support to all of the major road races in the UK .
    ETAPE CYMRU could have that support …..but they would have to pay and clearly that compromises the profit factor . The NEG will provide risk assesments , moto support , radio comms etc etc but increasing their seems to be a reluntance to use this facility as the NEG will ultimately ask organisers some very awkward questions around most of the safety topics covered in this blog. Rather than gripe about lack of gilets or food stocks the focus should be on making local authorities aware of the safety issues and therefore giving them the ammunition to gets things fixed or stop the whole thing . The organisers will not change anything unless they are forced to . Complaints for entrants will not have any effect , Local authorities and police are the only groups who force any change .
    Just to make something clear ….the NEG is non profit and backed by British & Welsh Cycling , I’m not saying use NEG and the event will be a massive success and along the way my fellow NEG members all gain £££s. But clearly similar events ( Pitlochary and Ennis ) where the NEG are involved don’t have these road safety issues .

  • Frank Lloyd

    I live in Gwynfryn Wrexham,as a resident we had no information about the race whatsoever,until road closed signs appeared,the vast majority welcome events such as these, but to close the same section of the A525 twice(out & then return) was asking for problems,the B5430 was in Chaos on the Old Road Bwlchgwyn, on the return leg, due to there being only one steward(student who could barely speak English) advising all traffic to Wrexham to follow the B5430 Gwynfryn Signs along with the race cyclists was asking for problems,when this road was signed closed noon to 1630, you can not put all blame on the residents using the roads signed supposed shut, when the organisers of the race ignore this signage, Wrexham CBC only applied the traffic orders ten days prior to the race & were seen two days prior to the race sticking notices(paper) to traffic signs, both Wrexham CBC & Denbighshire CBC would have been in big trouble if a fatality had occurred, has I do not think they carried out any risk assessments
    for safety, if the event occurs next year, common sense says send the cyclists in a loop. this in & out on the same roads at differing times only creates confusion with the public, also yes I know there are idiots for removing signage , but professionals spray the road as direction markers to avoid this, which is not a sole Wrexham problem , plus you can not take someone off the street and expect them to become experienced Marshall s or stewards after a 20 minute briefing, I have seen an e mail from the organisers K Extreme which is in the public domain and ends
    ” hopefully we can all get back to our respective jobs rather than answering these residents.”
    which shows highly K Extreme value residents input.

  • Stones

    Local Support was superb – that’s as +ve as I can be.

    The organisation was shocking. I’ve taken part in many sportives/races and have never taken part in one that was such a shambles as this one.

    The published route was not the actual route, there was no GPX published, the signs were poor, marshalling even poorer.

    The excuses regarding sabotage (they are excuses) could easily have been anticipated and managed. Most of these type of events put marshalls at all key turn points and spray arrows on the road in addition to signs. This means that sabotage cannot impact the event. The organisers took the cheap option!

    This was meant to be a closed road event – but clearly it was not and therefore very dangerous, because cyclists were riding as if the roads were closed. Large parts of the course were closed but much was not! On top of this at key points marshalls were not stopping cars, e.g. on descents where it is most dangerous there were no marshalls at the bottom to stop cars going up the hill in the direction of descending cyclists!

    Virtually every rider I spoke to got lost at some point or had a near miss – completely unacceptable. At the end there was not one rider I spoke to who had covered the same mieleage, because everybody had taken a different route – what is the point of timing the event and placing the riders!

    If you have traveled hundreds of miles at cost, spent money on overnight accomodation, paid £60 entry and trained for weeks in order to ‘compete’……. Need I say more. This event should be shelved and everybody given a refund.

  • Licko

    I agree with the criticisms of the marshalling/road closures/feed stations/timing chips/lack of gilet, but the route was absolutely fantastic! Some of the views were breathtaking and the climbs were proper tough. I really enjoyed the whole experience and if they fix the issues listed, they will have a classic next year.

  • sheldon

    Last comment spot on. You can ride on these fantastic Welsh roads this weekend, next month, any day you choose. (For Free). Spend the £65 in the local cafes, pubs, coffee shops whatever – £65 will buy you a lot of tea and cake.
    Sportive riders need to start enjoying their cycling and just go out and ride your bikes, look at your watch when you start and finish, but more than that JUST HAVE SOME FUN.

  • Jan Thomas

    As a resident who was affected by the road closures for this event, I would like to make a number of comments. I am not against this sort of event, but from a residents perspective, I was annoyed that we had received no PR visit. When road rallys come into the area, every address on the route (and some off the route but affected), are visited by a member of the organising club, if you have any issues at all there is a contact number so that you can speak to an organiser. The first we knew of this event was about a week beforehand we received a flyer through the post outlining the route and advising of road closures, the only contact tel number given was an emergency number for use on the day.
    The section of road alongside our property was closed for 2 hours, but no thought was given to alternative routes for us to exit the area during the day, The main exit roads from the area were closed 0900-1600 so even though we could use parts of lanes there were no alternative major exits.
    With regard to comments about the condition of the lanes, welcome to rural living, the lanes are a disgrace, maintenance consists of a man with a pickup filling pothoes with a shovelful of tarmac, as he covers a very large area, maintenace is very sparodic.
    We had hedges cut the week before this event, I spent considerable time with a broom sweeping up all the cuttings from the lane to avoid the riders picking up punctures. After being confined to our property for the day due to road closures and having to cancel prior arrangements, we did not see one competitor, the direction arrows are in still place on this section of the route but I was not aware of any marshalls, so presumably this is one of the sections where the riders got lost.
    It would seem if this was to become a regular event, the organisers have alot to learn from mistakes made this year to improve the situation for competitors, businesses and residents affected.

  • Martin

    “lets make the criticism a bit more positive so we get to ride that fantastic route again next year.”
    Are you joking? I can ride this route today, tomorrow or the next day and for £65 less than the sportive sheep paid for it!

  • Martin Croxall

    Interesting reading about the suggestion to move the start to Bala. I’m not convinced the closed roads idea would work even there but there is certainly better provision for cyclists. Actually, they should just pick up the old Gran Fondo Cymru route which was a good, challenging route but with great views as well.

    I miss the Gran Fondo Cymru!

  • BrainBob

    There can be no doubting this was a very poorly organised event, for any money, never mind the £65 premium entry fee.

    In terms of what was promised:

    – Fully closed 100-mile route with comprehensive signage – FAIL/ FAIL/ FAIL
    route partially closed, not fully. Reduced to 90 odd miles (though varous detours add up). Signage and marshalling atrocious. And the signs were inadequate before any of the local kids blamed by the organisers got to them.

    – Gilet worth rrp £20 – FAIL
    somehow it became a £5 note

    – British Cycling RIDE membership worth £24 – PARTIAL FAIL
    the discount for existing members was a fraction of the value of membership

    – Marshaling on all main junctions – FAIL
    bad fail. very poor marshals, who appeared to have no idea where they were, let alone where to send cyclists

    – Mechanical support cars, bikes and vans from Mavic – Mechanical support provider to the Tour De France – PASS.
    But then that had little to do with the organisers

    – Medical support based at feed stations – PASS
    and much needed

    – Broom Wagon – I think it was abandoned. Possibly it got lost too

    – ZipVit Energy drinks, bars and gels provided at feed stations – FAIL

    – Electronic timing system – FAIL

    – Results posted online after the event – PARTIAL FAIL
    reports are many missing. And no indication from the ride website of where they might be. I get a sense the organisers are lying low

    – Free Parking at Tetra-Pak’s headquarters- FAIL

    – Photography provided by Sportivephoto Ltd (accredited to the 2012 London Olympics) – PASS. Again, nothing to do with the orgaisers.

    So, for £65 the organisers delivered very little of what was promised. Never mind the greasy, moss covered roads and dangerous corners without adequate warning. Any other event of this kind in UK or Eurpe would avoid these roads and/ or provide adequate warning of hazards.

    Can we have our money back please?

  • Alberto

    I have put my thoughts together on our blog…all in agreement with previous comments highlighting the bad organisation, lack of food/water, presence of unexpected cars etc etc


  • Chris H

    Blimey….who would have thought Slippy roads in October on Welsh Country lanes…….Come on get a grip…..It was a challenging course that was in its maiden year…..I agree £65 was overpriced and the marshalling was not up to standard but lets make the criticism a bit more positive so we get to ride that fantastic route again next year.

  • Herbie

    Having just seen your article on the Etape Cymru, and having already given you sight of my feedback to the organisation yesterday, I just wanted to comment on some of the further issues raised.
    As someone who suffered two punctures in the first 10 muddy miles, I can only say that the road conditions were what they were – part of the event and something to be tackled – if I do the Paris-Roubaix or Tour of Flanders cyclos (and I have), then I don’t expect a smooth ride, and so going to North Wales I assumed it would be tough, gritty narrow lanes through farming country, and that’s what we got. We have to separate out the crashes and effects of bad luck and the natural conditions from the bad organisation – I wouldn’t want the route to be changed to an A-road drag-strip cleared of cars, and cleared of any interest!
    Where the bad organisation lead to incidents then that should be rectified – but sharp corners and mud just have to be anticipated and ridden accordingly!
    After my punctures I was near the back of the field and therefore arrived at all 3 feed stations when the food and drink had run out – this was inexcusable. I then also had occasion to get lost with about 100 other riders – somehow the locals need to be encouraged to see this as a good thing for the area.
    As far as local businesses go – its easy to be anecdotal about a shop losing custom – equally the B&B Hotel I stayed in was chock-a-block on a Saturday in October, all of the guests being riders or their friends for the Etape, and several of us stayed over for the Sunday night too, and were the only guests there. Also when trying to find somewhere to eat in Wrexham I ended up in an Italian restaurant with every table tlkaing cycling. These again are anecdotal references, so only illustrate that maybe on the whole businesses might have done well out of the event – just not all of them – this would need to be more statistically evaluated. I know some pubs on the route were thronged with riders friends and helpers waiting for them to go past. As I say it would have to be looked into more than just a few quotes.
    As I have said before – not a good experience as a whole, and a lot to be learnt, but a fantastic route, and a great sportive waiting to get out.

  • Ron Stuart

    As I said on posts and to the organizers last April ‘This is not the right venue for this sort of event’.
    Get away from population centres this reduces the risk of traffic infiltrating the course and lowers the risk of the signage being moved.
    Roads early in the event were to narrow. The route was designed around how you could economically police and “close” the roads were not the suitable for the original estimated 3500 riders. The closed roads that had cars on them are far more potentially dangerous than roads that are ‘open’ (there is a perception that they will be safer). There is also the question of cost to the customer (contract) that was broken. Also there was a race advertised up the Horseshoe pass (timed) with prizes, this potentially also may have nullified a lots of riders insurance.
    Answer: If the intension is to repeat this event then above all it requires a different venue…. Bala!
    In September (intended next year) after the kids go back school Bala will be quiet and hasn’t a larger population centre adjacent to the ride.
    Bala has a variety of roads with less traffic on them at this time of year, some of the most classic climbs in Wales (Highest road pass) and stretches of good A and B roads to thin the starters out on. Bala has much better facilities for visitors than Wrexham.
    Llyn Vrynwy, Llyn Tegid (Bala), Lyn Celyn, Llyn Trawsfynydd, Bwych-y-Gross, The Ranges, Hirnant Pass, Miilltir Gerrig, Arenig Fawr and North into Snowdon proper, all fantastic country.
    I can design a route much better than Sundays. Wales can do better than this years event.

  • pete davies

    anyone who lives in the area knew that it would be impossible to close all the roads, the organisers had approx £100000.00 in entry fees plus all the sponsorship and money from the council.. where has all the money gone ??? certainly was not spent on the event..
    This is the trend in the UK as its easy to make lots of money as you dont need all the rules as in running a road race… Would love to see the risk assessment for this event ???
    Lets be glad there were no serious injuries..