Anti-cycling protests and Surrey County Council blamed for cancellation of two triathlon events

2014 editions of Vachery Triathlon and off-road XTERRA England events both cancelled

by Simon_MacMichael   February 6, 2014  

Blenheim Triathlon 02

Surrey County Council and local anti-cycling protesters have been blamed by the company that organies two major trialthlons in the county for its decision to cese trading and cancel the events. 

Brave Events, the organisers of two major triathlon events that made their debut in Surrey last year, has ceased trading, blaming what it terms "a dispute with Surrey County Council" that it suggests may be linked to "highly vocal" opposition to cycling events in the area.

As a result of the company's decision, neither the Vachery Triathlon nor XTERRA England - an off-road triathlon event, with disciplines including mountain biking and trail running - will take place this year.

In recent months, Surrey has seen an ongoing row centred on the number of cycling events being held there, with the county council having said that it wants to build a sporting legacy from its hosting of the Olympic road races and time trials at London 2012.

As we reported last year, a petition was launched by local businessman Ian Huggins called on the council to "Stop using Surrey as a Cycle Track."

That petition was subsequently overtaken in support by one launched by cyclist (and road.cc user) Keith McRae, which called on the council to support cycling events, but urged it to communicate better with local residents in order to ensure they could continue to go ahead in future.

In December, the council, whose draft cycling strategy is currently going through a consultation process, urged the government to introduce a law regulating sportives, apparently in reaction to pressure from some Surrey residents.

The council also found itself embroiled in a row in November when it was accused of having signed a "secret" agreement to host the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 closed-road sportive for five years - even though, when the event was announced in 2012, it was clear that five annual editions would initially be held.

It's against the backdrop of those ongoing rows that Brave Events has taken the decision to enter insolvency proceedings, leading to the cancellation of the two triathlons this year.

According to a statement from the company, the inaugural edition of the Vachery Triathlon was held last year "on the understanding that the event was approved by the Council to run again in 2014 on the same basis (since it was not viable to run it otherwise).

"However," it adds, "the Council doesn’t now accept that position – perhaps in recognition of the highly vocal anti open-road cycling furore from local politicians and protesters that we experienced last year – which leaves Brave Events regrettably unable to deliver these events."

Brave Events says that with no "practical solution to this problem" found and with "a legal challenge... prohibitively expensive," it has been forced to cease trading and has instructed insolvency practitioners.

The statement, published on both events' websites and also sent to all entrants, says that prospective entrants "will be receiving communication from them shortly."

It concludes: "Since 2012 when we first shared our plans for a world class closed road triathlon with Surrey County Council’s Olympic Legacy Team we have worked tirelessly towards that goal.

"It is saddening to disappoint the triathletes, spectators and volunteers who shared our vision and contributed to the short but stunning sporting success of the Vachery Triathlon and XTERRA England."

Beginning on the private Vachery Estate near Cranleigh, the route of the cycle leg of the Vachery triathlon took it onto the roads of the Surrey Hills, including Leith Hill, also used last year in the inaugural edition of mass-participation event the Prudential RideLondon 100 and the accompanying professional race.

This year's Vachery Triathlon, due to conclude with "a high-powered run on the country lanes bordering the Vachery Estate" was scheduled to have been held on Sunday 20 July, and was expected to feature a number of athletes preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow among the 1,500 entrants.

A section of the event's website providing information for local residents and locals warned of restricted access and parking restrictions on a number of roads from 6am to 2pm.

Also starting with a swim at the estate's Vachery Pond, the route XTERRA England, part of the leading international off-road triathlon series and a qualification event for the world championships in Hawaii, included a 30km mountain bike ride and 10km trail run, both in the Surrey Hills.

The 2014 edition was due to have been held on the weekend of 23 and 24 August - a fortnight after Prudential RideLondon.

23 user comments

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Councils are complaining about not having enough money to pay for anything here is a chance to make some money and also help the local and surrounding business make a little as well and what do they do " head in the sand routine " .. sack the local council and start again ... glad they never decided to build and stadiums there for the Olympic games...shameful

posted by djfleming22 [10 posts]
6th February 2014 - 21:17

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Three spelling mistakes in the first paragraph, I did not read any further. Rolling Eyes

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [224 posts]
6th February 2014 - 21:19

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Proofreading: a dying art. Or perhaps a craft.

curdins's picture

posted by curdins [24 posts]
7th February 2014 - 0:29

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As is checking a story.

Surrey County Council did indeed make the decision for Ride London, behind closed doors in November or December 2011. This is now a matter of record as they have now released the minutes of the meeting, but only after they were found out in December 2013.

Part of the rules for closing roads is that they can only be closed once a year under the powers that they have used for Ride London. Parts of the Vachery use the same roads as Ride London.

Lets face it they are hardly going to let another organisation take their place are they.

posted by freespirit1 [146 posts]
7th February 2014 - 1:00

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I guess that photo in one, Blenheim, OXON

solentine

posted by solentine [91 posts]
7th February 2014 - 9:10

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Surrey CC were probably looking at the event organisers looking to charge £100-odd to 1,500 people and somehow expecting to get the use of local facilities and services for free? I'd fight to preserve the rights of Surrey League and the legion of volunteers to keep our sport on public roads but less so the interests of any commercial enterprise.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [358 posts]
7th February 2014 - 9:26

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freespirit1 wrote:
Part of the rules for closing roads is that they can only be closed once a year under the powers that they have used for Ride London. Parts of the Vachery use the same roads as Ride London.

It wouldn't just be two closures in a year - it would be two closures in three weeks. The best argument against those moaning about Ride London was that it was only once a year - but it's difficult to argue with Surrey residents who oppose the roads being closed twice in three weeks.

posted by step-hent [654 posts]
7th February 2014 - 10:55

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I don't buy this excuse for one minute. Why would a company cease trading over this. If Surrey was the problem then just move to another venue.

I think the real issue is that they were charging a small fortune £145 entry fee.

My son does sprint distance Tri that was £65 entry. Now remember that 2/3rds of a triathlon is running and cycling. He can enter a county standard Athletics event for a nominal £3 or so and TT with the local cycling club for £2.

So that leaves £60 quid for a 750m swim. Ok if it's an open water swim you need lots of stewards and safety boats etc but still and all.

High prices are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. The same will go for Sportives unless they are really good. TBH I can cycle round the New Forest and elesewhere for free and with my mates. So why would I pay Wiggle or someone else for the privilege?

Well OK a nominal fee might work - but £25 - £30 for a few bananas and fill up of my water bottle. Must be joking!!

I think they just priced this too high.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
7th February 2014 - 12:08

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As I understand it, triathlons normally have to pay marshalls rather than relying on volunteers. Hell, they are commercial organisations - would you help them out for free? Club and amateur events are all kept going by people giving their time for nothing. The £2 entry to a club TT goes on the CTT levy. I've run open TTs and everything left over after paying for the HQ and the timekeepers' expenses goes in prize money.

Commercial organisations charging people to ride around public roads does seem a bit bizarre to me. Mind you I've done the odd sportive myself - normally on roads I don't normally ride. Our club did run one where all the excess went to a cycling charity but it's a crowded marketplace.

posted by SteppenHerring [169 posts]
7th February 2014 - 12:30

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djfleming22 wrote:
Councils are complaining about not having enough money to pay for anything here is a chance to make some money and also help the local and surrounding business make a little as well and what do they do " head in the sand routine " .. sack the local council and start again ... glad they never decided to build and stadiums there for the Olympic games...shameful

How does a council get the money from a private company. Just ask for a donation (bribe). Or invent a new tax just for them (illegal). Tell me the mechanics of how they access the cash that the organiser is making.

Like others have pointed out. These are commercial ventures. Not charity, not local sports clubs operating "not for profit" events. They aren't even a major event like the Tour of Britain that brought in millions to the local economy and was a spectator event for some residents. Nor Like Ride London an attempt to boost tourism in Surrey. So why should the council shut the roads to its own residents and ratepayers so that some company can make a bundle of dough.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
7th February 2014 - 12:31

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oozaveared wrote:
They aren't even a major event like the Tour of Britain that brought in millions to the local economy and was a spectator event for some residents.

I'd be interested to know whether the triathlons made any money for the local economy. That would be a good argument against the naysayers.

posted by a.jumper [681 posts]
7th February 2014 - 13:04

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freespirit1 wrote:
As is checking a story.

Surrey County Council did indeed make the decision for Ride London, behind closed doors in November or December 2011. This is now a matter of record as they have now released the minutes of the meeting, but only after they were found out in December 2013.

Part of the rules for closing roads is that they can only be closed once a year under the powers that they have used for Ride London. Parts of the Vachery use the same roads as Ride London.

Lets face it they are hardly going to let another organisation take their place are they.

You've certainly caught up quickly haven't you?

You were seemingly caught so unawares by the Surrey/London 100 last summer that you were held under house arrest tighter than Nelson Mandela ever was but today you are fully versed on the ins and outs of the laws and regulations that govern road closures and have access to council meeting minutes.

That is a remarkable turn around sir, bravo to you.

posted by farrell [1345 posts]
7th February 2014 - 13:30

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I did the Olympic tri there last year and it was a well organised event with a great atmosphere. There were plenty of volunteers from Cranleigh helping out, including a family on the run course who had set up an unofficial aid station including a sprinkler, which was great on such a hot day. My kids were looking forward to doing the mini duathlon and triathlon this year and will be very disappointed not to be able to go.

I think the original problem was that the council agreed to the road closure without consulting the people living on the route, some of whom were also affected by the London 100 which came through a couple of weeks later. From what I understand, which may well be wrong, the council organised a meeting between the organiser and the people complaining and hung him out to dry.

Given the number of utterly disgusting threats to violently disrupt the race by a few , the organiser decided not to go through with the road closure. As it was, despite the open roads, I hardly saw a car on the bike leg. Perhaps the people doing the two-lap middle distance event saw a few more later on but for me, having closed roads wouldn't be a particularly important selling point for this race.

The bike course does use some of the same roads as the London 100, but probably only 3 or 4 miles or so, and this year the pros on the London 100 are doing a different loop to the one they did this year, which only overlaps with the tri course by a mile. Last year the people living in places lke Ockley would have been inside the pro course on the London 100 and inside the bike course of the tri.

I am not sure what the disagreement is this year. It sounds to me like the organiser had an agreement from a few years ago that the council would support road closures for this event but are now reneging on that. I don't know why continuing without the road closures is a problem if that is the case. Perhaps it might not attract so many people if it can't be advertised as closed roads, or entry fees will have to be lower, or perhaps it just doesn't fit his vision of a world class event.

posted by pwmedcraft [21 posts]
7th February 2014 - 13:43

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Surrey NIMBY's at large, what is wrong with you southerners?

posted by Leodis [176 posts]
7th February 2014 - 14:27

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Leodis wrote:
Surrey NIMBY's at large, what is wrong with you southerners?

Its the idiots in their Chelsea tractors who don't like having to slow down and move over for other road users.

posted by Nevans [12 posts]
7th February 2014 - 15:14

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It is very hard to imagine why this would be taking place. Sure, they have their reasons for not wanting the biking events to occur, but it just seems so silly. I hope that things get worked out soon.

 

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posted by sarahfl [2 posts]
7th February 2014 - 15:20

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oozaveared wrote:
I don't buy this excuse for one minute. Why would a company cease trading over this. If Surrey was the problem then just move to another venue.

I think the real issue is that they were charging a small fortune £145 entry fee.

My son does sprint distance Tri that was £65 entry. Now remember that 2/3rds of a triathlon is running and cycling. He can enter a county standard Athletics event for a nominal £3 or so and TT with the local cycling club for £2.

So that leaves £60 quid for a 750m swim. Ok if it's an open water swim you need lots of stewards and safety boats etc

High prices are killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Triathlons are very expensive events to run. A lot of marshals, first aid, and on longer distances food stations, well organised transition areas. Normally multi distant events requiring different management, coded swimming caps, bike codes, running numbers etc.

Major Ironman distance events usually charge £400-500 but still sell out in hours.

posted by Nevans [12 posts]
7th February 2014 - 15:27

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Leodis wrote:
Surrey NIMBY's at large, what is wrong with you southerners?

If by that you mean me. You're wrong. I have consistently criticised the NIMBYs I supported and went to watch the Ride London event at the top of Leith Hill. I supported and went to watch the Tour of Britain first at Puttenham then bombed back down to Farnham to see them come through there. I attended a Suurey Radio live Broadcast at Surrey Uni oposing the idea that the Council should register and have to approve all cycling events.

I do however think the proliferation of multiple Sportives using exactly the same routes over and over (ie using the reputation of say Box Hill as a marketing tool for their business) and some large Triathlons which then use those routes yet again, is probably annoying to Joe public in those areas. That the events that are purely commercial "for profit" enterprises, rather than the activities of established clubs or that get wider support from charitable purpose is relevant to me. These events have the potential to ruin things for everyone.

Surrey has some beautiful countryside. It's lovely to cycle in. But if you can envisage one sportive meeting another going in the opposite direction neither of which knew about the other but both included Box Hill and all the usual cycle clubs and people just out for a Sunday ride then you can probably understand what I am talking about. Absolute rubbish as an experience for cyclists and motorists alike as well as the locals.

I don't want cycling clubs or local Triathlon clubs to be banned from certain areas or have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to do things they have done for nearly a century or more or to have the unofficial close attention of the Police to dissuade them from certain routes, solely because commercial money making companies want to cash in on the boom in cycling in an irresponsible way.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
7th February 2014 - 15:37

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Many thanks for your kind comments farrell.

posted by freespirit1 [146 posts]
7th February 2014 - 17:17

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You'd be amazed how slack the water cover is at a tri. I'm a surf qualified lifeguard and did cover at a fairly major event (not saying which, as the pay is pretty good and I want to do it again), but apart from me and a couple of others there were NO qualifed lifeguards.

The rescue cover was some blokes from a local kayak club, with no way of pulling out a casualty, or even supporting them in the water. The rescue procedure was to blow a cheap 50pence whistle (with a pea in it, so it won't work if its wet) and wait for a 'rescure' dory to come over. The dory had such a high freeboard that there was no way they could get someone aboard from the water. There were four people to cover every 400m or so, and protect some 2000 swimmers. No radios except for a three shared out between everyone, which weren't waterproof.

Me and the other two actual lifeguards quietly decided what we would do in a real emergency on our own and ignore the 'procedure' until we'd stabilised someone.

Still, I had a fantastic view of the swim section, got on telly, and got paid 100quid, but there is no way I'd enter one as a competitor.

posted by localsurfer [161 posts]
7th February 2014 - 17:53

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a.jumper wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
They aren't even a major event like the Tour of Britain that brought in millions to the local economy and was a spectator event for some residents.

I'd be interested to know whether the triathlons made any money for the local economy.

Probably little with ones like this, even if they attract a few pros using it for training purposes. Personally, I think triathlon is well catered for in the UK and not far away in central London around Hyde Park there is the ITU World Series that also enables novices and amateurs to participate on the same closed roads and course as the pros will use. While a balloted entry, it only costs £69 to £99 (less if doing it for charity). There was a good turnout for the men's pro race, real Olympic legacy stuff and mostly because of the Brownlees.

posted by Ghostie [77 posts]
7th February 2014 - 19:19

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So a company went with a business model that depended on the goodwill of a local authority and didn't get a contract they can afford to enforce.

And the council changed their mind, and the business model is broke and said company are whining.

Boo hoo. That's the way them cookies crumble. The business plan was fatally flawed from the off.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [358 posts]
8th February 2014 - 0:52

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There's a certain amount of conjecture in this article and it doesn't really seem to be based on facts - it's been turned into a supporting argument for cyclists vs people of Surrey, when the arguments (as laid out above by comments of readers) make it clear that this maybe more a case if legislation and business needs. For shame.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1094 posts]
8th February 2014 - 10:13

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