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Confusion Surrounding the Closed Road Status of the 2015 Wiggle Etape Cymru Continues

by Nick Gregory

GB Flag

Despite recent reports in the local media confirming that the Wiggle Etape Cymru will be held on open roads in 2015, event organisers Human Race have told Cyclosport that a decision is yet to be made. 

In an article published on 11 December 2014, News North Wales stated: 

"In recent years the Etape Cymru sportive race, which sees thousands of riders take to the roads of Wrexham and Denbighshire, has been held on closed roads, leading to complaints from some residents they were made "prisoners in their own homes" on the day of the race." 

"But a spokesman for event organisers Human Race confirmed that while the 2015 event would again begin at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse, it would be held on open roads as a compromise." 

In reaction to the apparent 'announcement', councillor Paul Pemberton - who had been outspoken in his criticism of the road closures - was quoted as saying: "I am pleased they are not moving out of the area completely because the event brings a lot of money into the economy and I am glad they have listened to our concerns. There were a lot of people in my ward who were trapped in their homes and it is good the organisers have had the common sense to listen us." 

Riders on the route of the Etape Cymru

These sentiments were echoed by fellow councillor, John Phillips, who said: "I know the number of complaints I received was susbtantial but at the end of the day I would not want to see the race stopped because I know it helps support a lot of great charities. The only issue was the length of the road closures, because six to 10 hours was unacceptable." 

However, despite this 'leak', organisers Human Race maintain that no decision has been made about the closed road status of the event for next year. 

When contacted by Cyclosport, Rob Hillman, COO of Human Race said: "We are currently looking at the format and route of the Etape Cymru and will have more details in the New Year. We remain committed to organising an event in the region and look forward to launching this as and when the time is right." 

The Wiggle Etape Cymru, one of Human Race's flagship events and "the UK's toughest closed road sportive," takes place in North Wales every September and attracts around 2,000 participants. It is estimated the event contributes approximately £500,000 to the regional economy.

Former Welsh Rugby Union captain, Gareth Thomas took on the event this year

Back in September, immediately after this year's edition of the event, Cyclosport reported that Human Race were considering scrapping the closed road element for 2015 - which is believed to cost somewhere in the region of £100,000 to implement - mainly in order to appease isolated local opposition. 

Kirsty Wilde, operations director of Human Race, claimed the company had "a strict post event review policy which includes route reviews and the collation and review of feedback received from the local community and the councils."   

In the build up to the 2014 Etape Cymru it was claimed that the disruption caused by the road closures had inflicted "four years of hell" on local residents. In 2013 saboteurs placed tacks and nails on the route during the event as a form of protest; however, this year went off without incident. 

Regardless of the final decision, this latest speculation follows the recent news that fellow event organisers, IMG Challenger World have pulled the plug completely on the 2015 Etape Pennines - England's first closed road sportive - due to lack of interest and local opposition, begging the question: what does the future have in store for closed road cycling events?