There will be no Tour de Delta in 2022, and the long-term future of the three-day cycling event remains up in the air.
On Monday (March 7), council voted unanimously to cancel this year’s Tour due to its cost, logistical challenges and the now-tight timeline for planning the event. Council also directed staff to review the long-term feasibility of hosting the Tour.
“I know that we’ve always enjoyed for many, many years the Tour de Delta events in our community, but I think (…) there’s just too many uncertainties this year,” Coun. Dylan Kruger said at Monday’s council meeting.
“This is the most expensive event that the city puts on every year. It costs over $450,000, and some of that is recouped in revenue, but for the cost that this event could be for taxpayers in our community, there’s just too much uncertainty at this time. So, as disappointing as it is, (…) I think the recommendation from staff is a prudent one in this case.”
According to a report by parks, recreation and culture director Carmen Gonzalez, “the variables associated with international travel, athlete participation, cycling sponsorship, service providers and volunteers, combined with the required planning timeline and the required financial commitment, provides a level of risk too high for staff to be able to recommend that the 2022 Tour de Delta move forward.”
The three-day Tour de Delta is part of BC Superweek, a series of six pro-cycling events comprising nine races over 10 days. In years past, the Tour has featured a criterium (a lapped race on a closed circuit) in North Delta on day one, followed by another in Ladner on day two, before wrapping up with a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned road race that attracts international cycling teams who use the results to qualify for larger-scale international events like the Olympic Games.
The Tour de Delta was last held July 5-7, 2019 (coincidentally, its 19th year), before being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-related restrictions on large gatherings and international travel.
In January of this year, council directed staff to review options for hosting the event, including the possibility of scrapping the road race and limiting the Tour to two criterium races.
In 2019, the city’s net actual cost for hosting the Tour de Delta was $300,000 — approximately $450,000 in expenses and $150,000 in revenue, including sponsorships and a grant from the federal government. Delta’s 2022 financial plan includes $236,000 to host Tour.
The road race typically accounts for over 35 per cent of the Tour’s total gross expenses, as it “requires significant additional costs” to meet UCI’s standards — things like uniformed police on motorcycles to make up part of the mobile support for competitors.
Staff estimated the city’s net cost for holding two criterium races would be about $200,000, while adding the road race would increase the event’s net cost to between $300,000 and $400,000, depending on the number of riders who sign up and the amount sponsorship money that could be secured — both factors greatly impacted by the pandemic.
In her report, Gonzalez noted that restrictions and regulations pertaining to international travel — both here in Canada and in racers’ home countries — have resulted in significantly higher costs for competitors and a “high degree of uncertainty” as to how many international athletes would register for the Tour in 2022 and beyond.
As well, the economic impacts of the pandemic have reduced the amount of sponsorship money available, both for competitors and event organizers.
The report also noted that vendors who have traditionally supported the Tour and were interested in doing so again warned of potential cost increases due to things like staffing issues, supply chain considerations and additional COVID-related protocols.
Another consideration is the need to house the cyclists competing in the Tour de Delta and BC Superweek. In past years, many locals would welcome riders into their homes, however Gonzalez noted there’s “a great deal of uncertainty” as to how comfortable residents would be hosting cyclists “given the nature of their travel associated with BC Superweek and close-contact interactions with their fellow athletes.”
Coun. Jeannie Kanakos called it a hard day for Delta and asked that as staff look at options for the long-term future of the Tour, they consider how the event has raised awareness about cycling in the community.
“We’ve got huge momentum in our community because of the Tour,” she said. “Let’s build on what we’ve got, let’s go forward on cycling in Delta in some way.”
Kanakos asked staff to see whether there is funding available for activities that promote cycling for people of all ages by, for example, expanding existing classroom programs, offering courses through Delta’s parks, recreation and culture department, or putting on mini cycling events this summer.