The guardians of the Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge and the local Lakes Road Club in Cumbria have decided, 'after nurturing the legend of Fred through this iconic sportive since 1999', to team up with mass event organisers Human Race, itself owned by Tour de France owners (Amaury Sport Organisation, A.S.O) to help continue to develop the event 'for many years to come'.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. This latest agreement to take on the reigns of the iconic Fred Whitton Challenge in North West England, which this year will take place on 7 May, follows hot on the heels of Human Race's acquisition of Xtra Mile Events, producer of the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon and other events in the region. Human Race is under parent ownership of Le Tour de France owners, Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O), which also operates events such as Paris-Roubaix and L’Etape du Tour. The tie-up with the Fred Whitton Challenge further expands the Human Race (and A.S.O) portfolio. This currently includes: Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales by Le Tour de France, Chiltern 100 Cycling Festival and the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride.
The Steering Group of the Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge, the 112 mile iconic cycle ride in the Lake District, has confirmed that it has effectively placed its event in the hands of Human Race. The Fred Whitton event, or 'the Fred', is run in memory of Fred Whitton who was was an extremely popular member of the Lakes Road Club in Cumbria. The sell-out event has built its reputation through putting cyclists over some of the most gruelling climbs in the UK, positioned in contrast to the breathtaking scenery. 2,500 cyclists enter the event each year, and since its inception in 1999, over £1.25 million has been raised and shared by Macmillan Cancer Support, Mountain Rescue, Air Ambulance, and various youth cycling projects.
Each year, a group of volunteers, led by Paul ‘Lofty’ Loftus, have delivered the sportive to 'world class standards, working alongside huge amounts of local support and love to give it the personality that makes it so famous'.
The Steering Group has now decided to pass on the organisation to an organiser 'whose proven passion and expertise in cycling and other mass participation events, should help the event develop for many years to come – whilst also committing to the charitable ethos the event has always maintained.' Human Race is itself owned by Amaury Sport Organisation, the family owned business which has been historically linked with the sport of cycling. After discussions with Human Race and legal representatives a formal contract has been agreed, which 'keeps our ethos and our charitable commitments without any compromise but will it is believed further develop the Challenge.'
Some immediate input from Human Race into the 2017 edition will mean the event will be broadcast on the Bike Channel for many others to 'marvel at this astonishing feat of human endeavour that thousands take on each year'.
Paul Loftus, MBE President of the Fred Whitton Challenge said "Myself, the Steering Group and the Lake Road Club are excited that the future of the Challenge has been secured for years to come; we feel that in teaming up with Human Race we have a partner that will respect the ideals that we have achieved over the years with the event, and that we can still now raise money for all the charities that we have successfully supported in the past. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that we would be in this position today, where we would have to ballot riders for places in the event, and that the organisers of the Tour De France are aware of our event in Cumbria. Fred would be smiling and would probably used his famous phrase: 'A Good Effort'."
He added, "A big 'thank you' should go to all the sponsors that have generously supported us over the years, and the fantastic help we receive from our large band of volunteers, without them it would never happen."
Nick Rusling, CEO of Human Race said “At Human Race, we are delighted and honoured to form this partnership with Fred’s wife, Lynn, and the Steering Group behind this iconic ride. We’ve been involved with many superb sportives over the years but none with as much personality and love behind the scenes as the Fred Whitton Challenge. Anyone who calls themselves a rider, or who loves a great adventure and challenge on two wheels should do this event.”