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22-05-2024 | Frank Jansen | 1 Comment

3RIDES reflects: 'It didn't go as expected, but we'll be back’

It's no secret that 3RIDES in Aachen faced its challenges. Criticism regarding the gravel course and overall event quality was abundant. We sat down with the organizers for over an hour to delve into what went wrong and, more importantly, how it can be improved. 'Up until 6:45 AM on Sunday morning, I had a big smile on my face,' shared Björn Müller (CEO) and Tim Farin (Press Secretary) of 3RIDES. 'But from that moment onwards, almost everything seemed to go wrong.'

Looking back, what exactly went wrong during the event?

'It didn't unfold as we anticipated. It was like a snowball effect; issues compounded one after another. While I won't solely attribute blame to others, several factors beyond our control contributed. For instance, a significant number of paid marshals failed to show up. Consequently, there was a lack of control at the start boxes for the gran fondo, and insufficient signaling along both courses.'

'Additionally, there was confusion among authorities, police, and marshals regarding the duration of road closures. This resulted in marshals staying too long at the gran fondo, when they were actually needed at the gravel race.'

'This aspect wasn't adequately communicated. Although it was agreed upon that roads would reopen three-quarters of an hour after the race leader passed through, not everyone seemed aware of this. Consequently, roads in the gran fondo sometimes remained closed for much longer than agreed, much to the dissatisfaction of residents.'

'Regarding the gravel race, residents all in all were poorly informed, which was also due to the fact that our 60,000 flyers never arrived. Our service partner hadn’t delivered them, and we’re pushing charges. Other people in traffic simply disregarded road closures. The fact that it was Mother's Day, coupled with pre-existing commitments, exacerbated the situation. Furthermore, cycling races are relatively uncommon in Germany, leading to a lack of understanding among locals. While our efforts to disseminate information partly failed due to the problem with the info flyers, we did achieve a lot of media coverage between April 30 and the event. However, it's challenging to engage individuals uninterested in the event.'

The decision to hold both the gravel race and gran fondo on the same day—how did it impact proceedings?

'This decision catalyzed many of our challenges. Initially, we intended to host the races on separate days. However, the authorities declined to issue permits for such an arrangement. Given Aachen's urban setting and population density, closing roads for consecutive days wasn't feasible. Hosting two races in a single day proved untenable, and we won't repeat this approach.'

Were there signs of trouble preceding the races?

'Frankly, we didn't foresee them. Despite initial doubts when the permit stipulated a single-day event, we believed our plan was viable. Regrettably, this wasn't the case, and we apologize to all participants and local residents.'

Will 3RIDES return next year, and if so, in what capacity?

'Absolutely, 3RIDES will be back. Our aim is to host it in the border region with the Netherlands and Belgium, though alternate locations outside Aachen are being considered.'

'Given the proximity of these three countries, there's immense potential for the event. Our target is to expand from 5,000 to 10,000 participants while remaining in the border region. Whether it'll be at CHIO again remains uncertain; we're exploring alternative venues. Expect clarity on this matter within weeks.'

'CHIO's location necessitates passage through the city to reach the Eifel, limiting route options. However, the city offers amenities like family-friendly activities, ample accommodations, and bustling restaurants—all of which bolstered Aachen's appeal during 3RIDES. The event undoubtedly served as effective city marketing for Aachen, showcasing its charm through great imagery.’

'Conversely, relocating to a quieter part of the Eifel, akin to Laurens ten Dam's gravel event, forfeits these urban advantages. Our goal was to actively involve Aachen's residents, which proved successful.'

'We're also contemplating an additional fall edition, albeit nothing concrete yet.'

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However, most criticism centered on the gravel race, particularly the course.

'The course was twice as long as the previous year, which was a positive. While the original route was longer (60 km), it had to be shortened due to nesting season and updated regulation from the responsible part of the administration. Balancing UCI requirements for gravel percentage (60% or more) while staying within the Aachen area was challenging. We understand Zonneveld's decision to withdraw, but our primary concern lies with safety. Sebastian Kienle's accident, colliding with a car, prompts a necessary investigation into liability. Thankfully, he's relatively unharmed, and we maintain good communication with him.'

Some critics argue that too much emphasis was placed on side events and the expo.

'That's not accurate; 3RIDES isn't solely about elite cyclists. Side events ensure inclusivity, making it a unique European event. The kids' race, drawing over 200 leads to the local cycling club, exemplifies our commitment to accessibility. Moreover, the expo offers a distinct experience, especially with the absence of cycling fairs in the Netherlands.'

Have you received significant feedback from participants and the UCI?

'We've received a lot of suggestions and feedback from participants, which we greatly appreciate. Erwin Vervecken (acting as a liaison to the UCI, ed.) conveyed similar sentiments. Despite challenges, he's optimistic about our ability to rectify shortcomings next year. Moving forward, we'll adopt a more professional approach.'

Comments (1)

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Frank Minnaert 

  22 May, 2024     2 months ago     Reply

Mooi interview en heel goed voor het wederzijds begrip!

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