The 53rd edition of the Archer Grand Prix, due to be run on April 20th in the Chilterns in south east England, will not take place this year.
Organiser Stuart Benstead blamed the Thames Valley Police for blocking the event in spite of its long history. According to Benstead, the new commander of the operations section, superintendent Graham Bell, said it was the “many year-old policy” of Thames Valley Police to not provide support for events on public roads – including cycle races, marathons and charity walks.
“To date, however, common sense has been applied and despite this policy they have provided paid-for support for the Archer GP most, and perhaps all, of its fifty two years, including the ones when the policy was in place,” said Benstead. “We recognise that this decision by the operations section, controversial as it is, makes it impossible to run the event but we owe a duty to the many sports and community events such as parades, to question it with the chief constable in the first place and perhaps higher after that.”
Although there is a provision in the Road and Traffic Act to hold events such as bike races on public roads, police forces around the country interpret the rules in different ways.
British Cycling, the governing body for cycling in the UK, expressed its disappointment at the cancellation of the event, which formed part of the important Premier Calendar series.
In a statement, BC said it was working with the organisers and the police to decide the best course of action to take. “We will be raising the cancellation of the Archer GP at the highest level within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as part of our portfolio of work related to securing the future of events on the public highway,” said Peter King, BC’s chief executive.
On a broader scale, British Cycling is working with Sport England and the DCMS to ensure that road racing in the country is allowed to grow in future. To that end, BC has been working with the police on a Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, which gives race marshals the power to legally stop and control traffic. It has already been introduced in Essex and Gwent, and will be rolled out to the rest of Wales on March 1st, and then to other areas.