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Vélo Essex cancelled – but entrants will get less than half their money refunded

Organisers blame coronavirus uncertainty for canceling September event but admit ticket sales were low

Organisers ​of the Vélo Essex closed road sportive, due to have taken place in September, have cancelled the event, citing uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic – but they have admitted that sales of places had been low, and that entrants will only have 45 per cent of their money refunded.

Some 15,000 places had been made available for the inaugural edition of the 100-mile closed road sportive, starting and finishing in Chelmsford, which was due to have been held on Sunday 20 September.

One reader who contacted us after the announcement that event would be cancelled pointed out that other event organisers, such as Outlaw Triathlon, were “working hard to rearrange, postpone or rollover events” and were offering full refunds.

He highlighted that in the case of Vélo Essex, it did not seem “overly fair” that only 45 per cent of the entrance fee was being offered as a refund, and that there was no opportunity to switch to another future event.

“I’ll never be signing up to one of their events again,” he added.

Active Sport & Entertainment Ltd, who run the event, said that unlike other sportives whose organisers hope to run them in the autumn, the fact that Vélo Essex is not sold out and is more difficult to stage from a logistical point of view, as well as coronavirus not being covered under their business interruption insurance, meant they had no option but to cancel the event.

The third edition of sister event Vélo Birmingham & Midlands, originally launched as Vélo Birmingham in 2017 and due to take place on 21 June, coinciding with the national road championships, was cancelled earlier this month, with no refunds offered to would-be participants.

> Vélo Birmingham & Midlands sportive cancelled with no refunds

When the cancellation of that event was announced, its website said that organisers would “happily provide all 2020 Vélo Birmingham & Midlands entrants with a free entry into Vélo Essex 2020” – a pledge made redundant by today’s news.

Vélo Birmingham was first launched in 2016 by a company called CSM Active, which at the time counted double Olympic gold medallist and London 2012 supremo Lord Coe among its directors, with the debut edition taking place in September 2017.

> Details released of 100-mile Vélo Birmingham sportive, coming in September 2017

A planned second edition the following year was postponed, and the event returned last year under the new name, Vélo Birmingham & Midlands.

A second event scheduled to take place in September 2018, Vélo South, was cancelled three days beforehand due to a severe weather warning. Organisers said they hoped to rearrange the event for 2019, but that never happened.

> Weather warnings force cancellation of Vélo South closed road sportive

Last September was also due to see the first edition of Vélo North in County Durham, but that event was cancelled in July since organisers had been unable to sell enough places to make the event viable, prompting anger from entrants, some of whom had forked out hundreds of pounds for travel and accommodation.

> Anger at Vélo North cancellation

That means that out of six planned events since Vélo Birmingham was launched three and a half years ago, four will have been cancelled – and five out of seven if you count the second edition of that event, which was skipped.

The full statement published today on the Vélo Essex website reads:

In light of the ongoing Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and the latest government forecasts that indicate social distancing measures could be in place for the next six months, it is with much sadness that we announce the cancellation of Vélo Essex, scheduled to take place on Sunday September 20, 2020.

We know how excited you were to ride the inaugural event and that many of you had already begun training and raising money for a range of amazing charities. Please believe us when we say that we share your bitter disappointment – we are absolutely devastated that we’ve had to make this decision.

One of the key reasons for making this announcement with just under six months to go until the event was that we still have a considerable number of entry places left to fill.  We were initially confident of selling the balance of entries over the coming summer months, however the escalating Covid-19 pandemic has meant we are unable to rely on these sales to cover the significant cost of staging this event.  To compound matters, the important operational planning we should be undertaking is now severely compromised by the restrictions we are now all facing.

You may be aware that some major mass participation events have pushed back their dates back to September or October in the hope that restrictions will be lifted and they will be able to take place on their re-scheduled dates.  The main difference between these events and the inaugural Vélo Essex is that these events are either already sold out or logistically less demanding.

Whilst we carry extensive business interruption and event cancellation insurance, unfortunately, as is common with many mass participation events, none of these policies cover the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in.

Our rider Terms & Conditions do not require us to provide a refund under these special circumstances. However, having calculated the significant staffing, planning and marketing costs incurred over the last six months, we are able to refund 45 per cent of your entry fee (merchandise and camping purchases will be refunded in full).  You will receive a refund automatically which will be paid within the next 3-5 working days.

By making this difficult decision now we are able to offer you a partial refund – something that wouldn’t have been possible if we continued planning and investing into the event over the coming months, only for the event to be cancelled at a later date.  We also didn’t want to roll entries into 2021 as the future of Vélo Essex is currently very uncertain.

We hope you’ll understand why we have had to make these difficult decisions and we want to reassure you that in no way have we benefited from this incredibly unfortunate situation.

On behalf of all the Vélo team, we want to wish you and your family well over the coming weeks and months.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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