As a member of Fredrikshof Cycle Club, I recently received a mail from the club chairman. In it I was informed that the club will be a major partner in a new road race in and around Stockholm next year. Gran Fondo Stockholm (GFS) is a 150km race from Friends Arena, through Stockholm and then out towards Arlanda airport before looping back to the finish line inside the arena.
Since I’m training for Vätternrundan 2014 (VR), I figured that a 150km race just a few weeks beforehand would be perfect. Then I saw the entry fee. 1195 SEK! Quite a lot of money in my book but still, it’s a great chance to get some miles under my belt so why not.
A little while later I checked my Facebook news feed and ran straight into an avalanche of outraged Fredrikshof members. Why is the club boycotting VR due to price but supporting an equally expensive new race? Why are we dropping Roslagsvåren (135 km) to partner with a much more expensive race? Why is the race in Stockholm so much more expensive than other Gran Fondos? Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Why are Fredrikshof not supporting VR next year?
Well the club haven’t abandoned it completely but are going to have a considerably smaller presence and it’s not due to the total price. In fact, it is in protest to VR’s raised fees for club registrations. If a club wants to register a team and get first dibs on the best starting time then there is an additional fee of 400SEK per person bringing the total cost to somewhere around 1800SEK per person. To put it another way VR costs 6SEK per kilometre whereas GFS costs 8SEK per kilometre so it’s more expensive. So if the argument was only about money then fine, I can buy that argument. But it’s not. It’s about all, or at least many, cycle clubs around Sweden taking a stand against what they see as an unfair price rise when they bring so many riders to VR every year.
Why are we dropping Roslagsvåren to partner with a much more expensive race?
I’ve never done Roslagsvåren so I can’t comment from personal experience but from what I’ve read the race is outgrowing itself. There is a lack of parking and a serious lack of volunteer marshals willing to give up their time to make sure the race goes of in a safe and organised way.
Why is the race in Stockholm so much more expensive than other Gran Fondos?
I’ve seen a lot of numbers being thrown around and yes, it does seem like it’s more expensive than similar rides in New York and the Alps but not by much. If that was the end of the story then fine but we don’t live in NYC or the Alps. So to take part in any of the “cheaper” races I’d need to buy a plane ticket, almost certainly pay a fortune to ship my bike and then find a place to live etc. For GFS I’ll pay my entry fee then either cycle or get a lift to and from the arena. End of story. So yes, the entry itself is more expensive but the total cost is much, much less for anyone living in the area. It is still expensive but nobody is forcing anyone to enter. If it’s too expensive for you, don’t take part.
So, will I take part or not? Well it’s all going to come down to money. Since I’m starting the Svenskklassiker next year I have to pay for entry to VR, Vansbrosimning, Lidingöloppet and Vasaloppet. If, after paying for all that, I still have enough to pay for GFS then I will. If I don’t then I won’t.