Build it and they will come, goes the old adage. But as far as sportives are concerned, build it too tough or get some other aspect of your strategy or organisation wrong and they might come in unsustainably low numbers.
That appears to be the lesson of this year’s Dave Lloyd MEGA Challenge after only around 220 riders chose to participate in the self-proclaimed toughest sportive in the UK. The decline came despite the route being made easier this year and alternative MINI and MIDI challenges of 50 and 97 miles being offered as less gruelling options.
Organisers Dave Lloyd and Terry Bell offered BikeRadar their views on the future of the event. “We need more razzmatazz,” said Lloyd, adding that he needs to be more hands-on in future rather than leaving the burden of most of the organisational work to Terry. “Last year it was too long. This year it was a perfect distance but we may leave out the uphill finish in future. It seemed a bit artificial and felt like the sword of Damocles hanging over me all the way round.”
Dave lloyd believes the mega challenge needs more razzmatazz: dave lloyd believes the mega challenge needs more razzmatazz Mark Appleton
Dave Lloyd believes the MEGA Challenge needs more razzmatazz
While admitting to being “very disappointed” at the low turnout, Lloyd said: “We will persevere. We won’t give up – it’s too good a route to do that. There were lots of happy faces at the finish but we’re still on a learning curve and haven’t got it right yet. We have to listen to riders and give them what they want.”
Speaking immediately after the sportive, Bell adopted a pragmatic view of the low turnout. “Two hundred riders don’t make an event,” he said. “It was never intended to be bland, it was always supposed to be a real challenge. The feedback we’ve had from riders this year has been very constructive but we can’t keep running sportives with these numbers, we’ve lost money on it.” He later conceded that the entry fee might need to be reduced.
Terry bell says he will persevere with the event: terry bell says he will persevere with the event Mark Appleton
Terry Bell says he’ll persevere with the event but may reduce MIDI and MEGA entry fees
With perfect weather this year and none of the sign sabotage that ruined the event for many riders in 2009, there can hardly have been a better showcase for some of Wales’s most stunning road cycling. Whether the changes to the course and the fine conditions will be enough to boost numbers for future editions remains to be seen. But with no end in sight to the recession and faced with an overcrowded sportive scene, if they are to save this event, Lloyd and Bell are faced with a mega challenge of their very own.