The organisers of the upcoming Challenge Henley triathlon have denied claims that residents were not sufficiently consulted ahead of this year's event, telling 220 Triathlon that measures of consideration went "above and beyond" the normal requirements.
MP John Howell, along with Henley mayor Stefan Gawrysiak, is quoted by the BBC this morning (30 August, 2013) as saying that Just Racing UK did not consult residents ahead of the race, which takes place on 8 September and will entail a 12-hour closure of some local roads.
By the book
However, Just Racing UK's managing director Alan Rose told 220 Triathlon that he believed his team has done "everything by the book and more besides".
By way of evidence, Rose pointed to a voluntary three-month consultation process on a proposed new route for 2013, and a separate consultation of the local community by the South Oxfordshire police, which he and his team subsequently acted upon.
"In terms of engagement I think it's fair to say we have done much more than we needed to, and we do feel that we have engaged very much with the parishes," said Rose. "To be honest, the problem we have is people's understanding of a consultation."
Describing event organisation as a "complicated process", Rose said that while suggestions have been made to minimise local disruption caused by the event, there are often knock-on effects to altering the race route that are not always immediately apparent.
"We did have some very good feedback, which really helped shape some of the things that we had put in this year, but there comes a point where people are only affected to a certain degree, and not everyone can be experts in this.
"It gets to the point where we say, 'We have consulted, we have listened, now we are going to act and address those issues'."
The people speak
According to Rose, one good point does seem to have come out of the controversy, spurred perhaps by the high profile of key figures.
"We have actually received a lot of emails from not just athletes but people in the Henley area who are very supportive in their comments, saying 'don't let these people put you off, this doesn't represent the views of the majority in Henley'.
"Last year the public were great, they came out and supported and were really, really good, and hopefully they will do the same again this year."
This year's event will see competitors swim 3.8km along the River Thames, bike 180km on closed roads through the Oxfordshire countryside, and then run 42km on a flat course around the town of Henley.
Will you be heading to Challenge Henley 2013? What are you looking forward to most about the race? Let us know in the comments box below!