Croydon’s cyclists seem likely to snub the £150 entry fee being demanded by the organisers of a charity event being staged as part of the town centre bike race next month.
It is the second year that Croydon has staged the evening criterion cycle race, after last year paying £148,000 to race organisers Sweet Spot to bring the event to south London. The council belatedly said that it spent £107,721 on last year’s race, and tried to claim the event generated £106,000 income, though it failed to provide any independent verification for its arse-covering figures.
This year, it is attempting to add a chimera of respectability to its spending on the race by including a charity ride in its day-long timetable. Yet so half-baked has been the promotion of the event that one of Croydon’s biggest cycling clubs had not even heard of the charity race before they were contacted by Inside Croydon this week.
The night of cycle racing has become something of a vanity project for Croydon’s council leader, Tony Newman, who has insisted on going ahead with the event again after his ego got a massage through a brief TV interview which was broadcast at the dead of night by ITV4 last year.
After the 2015 event, the council said that the staging costs were all covered by sponsors – who included Croydon Council itself and some of its own contractors (from the profits they have made from working for the council). This year, the event appears to have attracted fewer local sponsors, as the council has so far listed just business group Croydon BID, TfL and builders Willmott Dixon.
The local council will doubtless again be picking up the tab for road closures and other works required to prepare the course for a couple of “international races”, which are largely contested by journeymen riders and watched – if 2015 is anything to go by – by disappointingly small crowds.
The charity race requires teams of six to ride laps of Croydon’s new race circuit, which is just under a mile long. That’s if they can catch their breath after seeing the entry fee demands of £150 per team – so £25 per person – and to guarantee at least £300 each in sponsorship.
This charity ride is being organised (if that’s the right word) by Croydon Commitment.
Croydon Commitment is the body which infamously tried to stage a charity abseil down the former council offices at Taberner House, but failed to equip the fund-raisers with a rope long enough to reach the ground. Fortunately, no one met their doom as the error was discovered.
According to its own accounts lodged with the Charity Commission, in the past five years, Croydon Commitment has never managed to raise more money for charity than it has spent in setting up its events. Which sort of explains their slogan: “Charity is our Business”.
The bike relay is supposed to be raising funds for the Mayor of Croydon’s charities, in an event just a fortnight after Wayne Trakas-Lawlor is installed in the role.
Unless Croydon Commitment has a queue of biking sextets from local businesses lining up each to pledge £1,800, the new mayor’s hopes could be punctured.
“Someone’s clearly seen an event like the London Marathon, which raises millions for charities through special entry fees, and they thought they could do something similar with the Croydon bike race,” said a sports marketing executive. “They overlooked the fact that the Croydon bike race around a one-mile circuit lacks the crowds, the field, the live TV, the challenge and the appeal of the London Marathon.
“Have they really thought this through?”
A local cycling campaigner approached by Inside Croydon about the event responded by saying, “It’s not the sort of thing that appeals to me. Having to get together a team of six and guaranteeing so much sponsorship could put off others, too.”
And one of the biggest and longest established local cycling clubs had not even heard of the event before we approached them.
“I’ve put it on our race page,” the club’s racing secretary said, “but I doubt it’s the sort of thing which will interest our members.”
At least anyone who does turn up for the charity cycle should be finished by 5pm, which is when the hospitality tent, with its free booze and food for VIPs, and councillors, is due to open.
And that’s something Newman’s sure not to miss.
The race circuit for 2016 is much changed from last year, and avoids Surrey Street – thus not losing the market stall-holders there a day’s business – as well as the trams, so that Tramlink can continue to operate and the professional riders don’t risk serious injury as they race at high speed over the tarmac’d tracks, as happened last year.
Next month’s race will pass Central Library and the Town Hall, turn right at Queen’s Gardens, and then hurtle downhill alongside the Flyover before a perilous hairpin turn, back uphill to Edridge Road, and right on to Mason’s Avenue and then back on to High Street for a long straight back to the High Street along South End.
“It’s a great way of encouraging more people to cycle,” Timothy Godfrey, the council’s cabinet member for sport and culture, said this week when the route was unveiled.
And therein lies an irony. The course uses a stretch of road through from South End where there was once a cycle lane, but which has been reduced or obliterated by Croydon Council road schemes.
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