Circuit of the Fens 2015 cancelled after TV rights not secured and sponsors pull out - but hopefully it will return in 2016

Action from last year's Circuit of the Fens. Picture: Steve Williams.

Action from last year's Circuit of the Fens. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

This year’s Circuit of the Fens road race at Whittlesey has been cancelled after sponsors pulled out.

But the event, held for the first time in 2013, might still return in 2016.

Race organiser Colin Coe said: “Unfortunately it boils down to cash.

“For the last two years, we have worked on a shoe string budget. This year, we’ve had two sponsors pull out and entries are not coming in quick enough.”

Since it was launched in 2013, the event has proved a big hit, with thousands of people lining the roads of Whittlesey and the surrounding villages to cheer on the cyclists.

But organisers have taken the “difficult decision” to pull the plug on the event, which was scheduled for July 26.

In its place, on July 26, an Eastern Road Race league event will be held starting and finishing in Benwick.

Most Read

Mr Coe said another issue had been with British Cycling “who denied us a place on the elite race series, which guarantees TV coverage.

“Without that, it’s a struggle. You need £25-30,000 to put on a decent race.

“We would like to thank Whittlesey Town Council and Fenland District Council, and the people of Whittlesey for all their support and we plan to be back in 2016.”

Mr Coe said: “A lot of people will be disappointed by the decision but we had little choice. Although offered a generous grant from Whittlesey Town Council, along with valuable support from Fenland District Council, we had no significant commercial sponsors. Indeed, two of our sponsors from last year had said goodbye, albeit on amicable terms.

“We were obviously seeking replacements but it is difficult to persuade companies to part with their cash in sufficient amounts to meet the cost of putting on a race of this calibre. A dispute with British Cycling over the calendar date cost us a place in their Elite Series and with it the TV coverage, a lost opportunity to attract potential sponsors for the event and cycling at large.

“We had hoped that the races might be self financing but when promises of funding from other sources did not materialise, that was the crunch point so hence the late cancellation.

“We have operated on a very tight budget for the past two years and the prospect of another loss this year was not an option.

“We do understand that the Whittlesey townsfolk are disappointed. They have been very supportive over the last two years. Hopefully the race will return.

“I expect that the organising group will see some changes during the next few months and will need to raise a substantial amount to promote the race to the level it deserves to achieve.”

A consolation for some of the riders is that the original support race is being transferred from Whittlesey to Benwick. The organisers won’t face the same costs in running a race confined to the smaller circuit.

Benwick had already welcomed the prospect of its own race on the Sunday morning but instead will now host a longer 76 mile event.

The Circuit of the Fens (amateur Race) is being promoted by St Ives Cycling Club for 2nd and 3rd category riders. The race will be club’s counting event towards the Eastern Road Race League.

The race will cover eight laps of a 9.5 mile circuit, starting at 12 noon and finishing at 2.45pm in the High Street.

Eighty riders have already signed up, with a couple of days left to enter at the time of writing. Riders have entered the race from as far afield as Chester, Barnsley and Lincoln in the North, across to Coventry and Milton Keynes to the West and one travelling up from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter