There’s only one word that accurately sums up the Velothon in Wales…impressive.
Impressive that almost 15,000 cyclists were processed straight after a major football match between Wales and Belgium, and impressive that the chosen routes were so consistently monitored.
What was most impressive, however, were the cyclists themselves – especially that mad pair on the tandem. People came from all over the world, and by virtue of owning a bike and competing in a race (even though my time was atrocious) instilled a sense of community. Conversations with strangers were a highlight of the event, discussing bike builds and how fantastic the scenery was.
In all honesty, the Velothon was the single most fun event I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking part in. The marshals were fantastic, and the crowds of people shouting encouragement gave the impression that I was an actual athlete! I cannot thank those people enough…to hear encouragement at the 100km point gave me and everyone involved that little boost needed to push forward.
Up to the first feed-station at 60km (37.28 miles – all cyclists use kmph for some odd reason – I blame Europe), I was pushing out a respectable 14.5mph average… up until the Tumble and Caerphilly Mountain, it was all going so well! To finish, I’d averaged 12.2mph, and happily sat down on the grass at the finish line and ignored the world.
The elephant in the room, however, is the organisation of the event. Any first time event will have kinks that need to be ironed out – and doubly so for a new event with 15,000 competitors. Judging from the blowback, and the tacks thrown on to the road, it stands to reason that a large number of people were not aware of the road closures.
Velothon, however, were fantastic at media management – there were near consistent barrages of bad media from the BBC and WalesOnline – admittedly, it’s their job to report news as it is… it just seemed strange that the ‘as is’ news they chose to report was so usually negative. But Velothon highlighted the benefits of the race, and did their best to placate or help any disgruntled residents.
With the Velothon returning next year, maybe TV advertisements similar to Party Election Broadcasts would be the way forward – at the very least a mailout to those affected by the route. Personally, I’ve been aware of this event since WalesOnline reported on it this time last year (I also pre-registered at the drop of a hat!), so the information has been out there… but clearly hasn’t been obvious enough.
There’s gold in them thar hills…but this time, it’s nothing to do with mining. The value of the Welsh landscape to the economy cannot be understated – yes, road closures have rightly irked residents, but the overall benefit needs to come first.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Wales has the opportunity to become a hub for world events – with the Ryder Cup, the NATO summit, and now the Velothon…the game is ours to lose.