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Home / Cardiff and it's Bay / Home and School / Car on road brings Velothon to a halt

Car on road brings Velothon to a halt

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

By Christopher Gage

in Community News

Cyclists at the controversial Velothon Wales were brought to a halt after a car drove on the closed route and forced the race to stop.

Local residents also reported roads closed outside of stated hours, rubbish being left strewn across the route, and businesses losing out on trade over Sunday’s event.

The car incident meant the race was forced to stop at Nantyderry and Llanellen, whilst police and race marshals dealt with the vehicle which had joined the cyclists’ route.

A spokesman for Velothon Wales confirmed that the incident was due to a motorist driving on the closed section.

“We worked closely with the police and marshals to ensure the complete safety of the participants, which involved the pausing of the event at two locations, until the vehicle was removed from the course.

“The safety of the riders is of paramount importance and fortunately this incident only caused minimal disruption to the event and all riders were able to continue.”

The incident marred an event which saw 18,000 cyclists take part, including some of the sport’s professional elite, in a gruelling 140km race which serpentined South East Wales.

Weeks of build-up to the event raised local tensions, with some Monmouthshire residents upset at the extensive road closures forced into place to accommodate the event.

Others took a more sympathetic view, pointing to the amount of cash raised for good causes, said to be around half a million pounds.

Local businesses said last week they expected to lose thousands, as road closures kept customers away on one of the most lucrative days of the week. One trader said his bookings for Sunday plummeted by 90 per cent, losing over £2,200.

Monmouth MP David Davies last week countered the argument which claims the event brings some £2m into the local economy, saying that the ‘massive inconvenience’ would hit local businesses.

Some locals were dismayed at the amount of litter left behind after the event. One resident said she collected a large amount of rubbish on a 100m stretch of the B4246 near Llanfoist.

Sarah Marshall, said, “Like many, I have fairly strong feelings with regard to this event which is sold to us as a boost to tourism.

“To my mind, the only location likely to benefit from such a boost is Cardiff itself, given that for most of the day it is impossible, without detailed local knowledge, to access vast areas of Monmouthshire by road.

Mrs Marshall said although the event divided local opinion, her real concern was with regards to the rubbish left behind.

“I am incensed by the litter left in the wake of the cyclists and wonder at whose expense it will be cleared, if at all.

“This morning, I picked up 29 discarded gel-drink packs in a bare 100m stretch. Boost for tourism? i don’t think so! We have enough Litter Louts of our own, without importing them from elsewhere!” she said.

Another resident was disappointed after roads closed earlier than stated.

Emma-Louise Gardner said she appreciated that the organisers issued road closure information in plenty of time, but found herself having to scramble to work after her route was closed early.

“I start work in Cwmbran at 9.30am, so I left my house with plenty of time, so that I didn’t have to do the extra mileage, only to find my route blocked at 6.45am.

“It is bad enough I am going to work two and a half hours early, unpaid, but to also have the inconvenience of not being able to use that road is disgusting!”, she said.

One local, who wished to not be named, said he was stopped from parking his car outside his home.

He said a leaflet was dropped through his door late last Thursday night warning him not to park outside.

Rosemary Jones, who runs Pont Kemys Caravan Park near Usk, with her husband – Monmouthshire County Councillor Bryan- questioned the economic ‘windfall’ the Velothon is said to inject into the surrounding area.

“I feel totally incensed that, yet again, our beautiful county has been invaded by cyclists. When is Cardiff and its surrounding area going to suffer, as we have done for the second year running?

“I am fed up with all this tosh about the Velothon bringing money into the county. I don’t know one local who has benefited. Rather, we have all suffered a loss in some way.

“All the money is going to the organisers in the Cardiff area. I know money is going to charities, but I fear that this is a smokescreen, behind which there are some very fat cats.

“Pubs, shops, restaurants, garden centres, and craft centres, have all had to close for the day, or trade in the evening. That simply does not work for some businesses. A Sunday in May can be one of the busiest of the year. Any trade lost can never be recovered.

“Residents unfortunate to live along the route have been virtually imprisoned from very early morning, to late afternoon,” she said.

Simon Key of the Nag’s Head public house in Usk disagreed however saying that he had benefitted from the Velothon passing his front door.

“The Velothon has been a great event and I’ve enjoyed welcoming cyclists and spectators into the pub today. We’ve benefited from increased business in recent weeks as many cyclists have been visiting Usk as part of their training. Some riders shouted out to us that they didn’t have time for coffee and tea cakes today! Next year, I think we can make even more of the opportunity by selling hot dogs and creating a party atmosphere in the streets as cyclists go past,” he said.

Monmouthshire County Council also reaffirmed it’s support for the event, with Councillor Bob Greenland – the cabinet member with responsibility for leisure saying that the day’s event had been ‘fantastic’.

“Thanks so much to everyone who was involved and supported the event. It was wonderful to see so many local people taking part and raising money for good causes. Monmouthshire has a fabulous community of dedicated volunteers who contributed to make the event a success. In Usk, Velothon volunteers donated spare food from the feeding station to the residents at the town’s Plas Mawr sheltered housing complex. From a business and tourism perspective local enterprises have a massive opportunity to hold events to attract cyclists and spectators during the build-up and on the day itself,” said Councillor Woodland

“I took the opportunity to listen to residents who would like to see even more of a party atmosphere next year. That is certainly something I’d be happy to consider to make a great event even more enjoyable,” he added.

Despite a clear element disappointed with aspects of the event, organisers said this year’s Velothon was much better organised, and had learned from the first event held last year.

A Velothon Wales spokesman said in a statement after Sunday’s event, that initial feedback had been ‘overwhelmingly positive’.

“Increased communication with residents and businesses prior to the event helped to reduce disruption on the day.

“We will continue to make improvements to all aspects of the race for next year. We are already looking forward to the third Velothon Wales in 2017,” he said.

This year saw participants leave the capital and head to Newport, then onto Usk via Caerleon, turning off into the countryside at Llangibby.

The route took riders to Usk via the Chain Bridge and Nantyderry, towards Llanfoist where they pushed up the gruelling Tumble Climb amongst the delight of gathered spectators.

The riders then went onto Blaenavon and Pontypool, before heading back to Cardiff through Newbridge, Ystrad Mynach and Caerphilly.

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