Cycling event Vélo Birmingham is coming back - but with some big changes.
The UK's second biggest closed road cycling event first took place in 2017 and was due to return this year but organisers delayed it until 2019.
The first year was filled with controversy after it angered residents and businesses across the Midlands for "creating road chaos."
Householders said they had been trapped in their homes all day, businesses said they had lost trade and those who did try venturing out encountered road closures, dead ends and diversions turning their journey into a nightmare.
There were concerns about access for emergency services, elderly and vulnerable people being left stranded, worshippers being unable to get to Sunday services and about pubs, caravan parks and tourist attractions losing trade.
Some people ended up being late for flights from Birmingham Airport after being forced into frustrating and lengthy diversions when coming across one road closure after another.
So what's going to be different about the event when it returns for 2019?
What's the date of the Vélo ride and when do entries open?
It will take place on Sunday, May 12, 2019.
The first event was in September 2017, so this is a move to a different place in the calendar altogether.
Launching today at the Cycle Show in Birmingham, a panel consisting of Lord Sebastian Coe (Chairman of CSM), Martin Johnson CBE (England World Cup winning captain and fanatical cyclist), Ian Ward (Leader of Birmingham City Council) and the event’s female ambassador Rebecca Charlton have spoken about the event’s aspirations for 2019.
Entries will open on Thursday, October 4, 2018, exclusively to everyone who pre-registers before midnight on Wednesday October 3.
The inaugural event sold-out 15,000 entries in just three days and with over 40,000 pre-registrations already received for the 2019 event, organisers say competition for places on the start line is again expected to be fierce.
How Vélo Birmingham is changing
Aside from moving to a spring date, it will change its name to Vélo Birmingham & Midlands.
Thirdly, organisers say it will be "bigger and better than before" with an "epic new 100-mile route taking 17,000 riders on an unforgettable journey through the West Midlands including two major city centres."
Organisers say that moving the event into a spring slot with additional daylight hours, together with a new route, will "provide the capacity and infrastructure to enable the event to fulfil its long-term ambition of becoming one of the world’s biggest and most iconic sportives."
Lord Sebastian Coe, Chairman of organisers CSM, said: "The new and improved route really shows off the beauty and diversity of the Midlands and the opportunity to experience cycling through the heart of two major Midlands cities on closed roads will provide a truly unique experience for the 17,000 riders taking part."
So what is this new route?
Once again starting in the Digbeth area of Birmingham city centre, the new route will travel through the heart of the 2021 Capital of Culture - Coventry - where riders will cycle on the cobbled roads surrounding the historic Coventry Cathedral.
Between these two city centres, riders will travel through Solihull, Warwickshire, Dudley and Sandwell where they will, say organisers, encounter "stunning countryside, panoramic views, picturesque villages, iconic climbs and tens of thousands of residents lining the streets to cheer them on."
With the route travelling through some of the Midlands’ most densely populated areas, organisers are taking the event to an even bigger audience in 2019 and say they will be working closely with local authority partners to ensure the event "positively impacts the communities it travels through and provides a lasting legacy for the region."
There will be an event hub on Edgbaston Street in Birmingham.
What about all the problems caused by the first event?
A Vélo Birmingham & Midlands spokesperson said: "The 2017 Vélo Birmingham was a huge success, with over 30,000 local residents lining the route in support of the riders and over £2 million raised for charity.
"It is well documented that there was a small and vocal minority who opposed the event, but on the whole it was incredibly well received by communities right along the route.
"For the 2019 Vélo Birmingham & Midlands, we will once again be executing a robust business and resident communication strategy which is aimed at raising awareness of the event and the road closures that will be in place on the day.
"As per 2017, we also have an in-house Route Team who work tirelessly to help residents and businesses overcome any access issues the road closures may cause on the day. The 2019 route has been developed in partnership with six local authorities and emergency services and has been meticulously planned to ensure it causes the least amount of disruption possible for the West Midlands.
"We are hugely excited about next year’s event and are confident the event will be positively embraced by local communities."
Anything else happening?
Alongside boosting overall numbers, organisers say they aim to make Vélo one of the UK’s most female friendly sports events, aiming to increase the number of women taking part to 50 per cent by the time Birmingham hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
A long-term strategy will look at the issue with the aim of getting more women to take part year on year.
The event also provides a charity fundraising platform.
In 2017, participants raised £2 million for several charities, including Cure Leukaemia, NSPCC, Alzheimers Society and Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, all of whom remain as headline charity partners in 2019.
Vélo Birmingham & Midlands will again feature the Business 100 corporate challenge, which will aim to attract 100 Midlands companies to sign up teams of four and enjoy a VIP participation experience.
What the organisers said
Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "I am absolutely delighted that this exciting event is returning to Birmingham and the West Midlands and we look forward to welcoming 17,000 cyclists back to our magnificent city.
"Birmingham has a proud history of hosting world-class, large-scale events and Vélo Birmingham & Midlands will be no exception.
"Events such as this are hugely important, not just in terms of economic benefits to the region and the charity fundraising by those taking part, but also because of the legacy it creates by inspiring people of all ages and abilities to take up cycling, whether for competitive sport, recreation or as a more environmentally friendly way to travel around our city."
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: "As we get ready to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Vélo Birmingham and Midlands will be a great event to showcase the best of the region.
"This was an absolute triumph last year with 15,000 people riding their bikes on the closed road route and many residents coming out to support them. There was also a very positive impact on the local economy, and of course the thousands of pounds raised for different charities.
"I invite residents and those coming to visit the West Midlands to take part in what is sure to be another hugely successful event."
Martin Johnson, England rugby World Cup-winning captain, cycling fanatic and Vélo Birmingham & Midlands ambassador, said: "The inaugural Vélo Birmingham was a truly amazing experience and I can’t wait to join thousands of riders on the start line of the 2019 event.
"The combination of a brand-new route along with all the other positive changes organisers are making will no doubt result in the 2019 event being even more spectacular than the first edition in 2017.
"My advice to anyone who is tempted to enter but is doubting their ability to complete 100 miles would be to just take the plunge and go for it!
"I speak from experience when I say that with the right training it’s an extremely achievable goal. Completing a century ride is a huge accomplishment and the feeling when you cross the finish line will be worth all the hard work."
Cllr David Hosell, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for highways and environment, said: "It’s fantastic for Sandwell to be part of this major cycling event for the region and we’ll be sure to give riders a big cheer as they cycle past our newly-restored Lightwoods House and Park on the way to the finish line.
"We will be working closely with the team at Vélo Birmingham & Midlands for a successful event that also keeps disruption on our roads to a minimum."
Cllr Karen Shakespeare, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services at Dudley Council, said: "We pride ourselves on having some fantastic facilities in this borough for people to enjoy a healthy lifestyle and experience the great outdoors.
"The newly named Vélo Birmingham & Midlands is a great opportunity for communities to come together and we’re delighted to be a small part of this nationally recognised event. We have also worked hard with the organisers to ensure that disruption for residents is kept to a minimum, the event runs smoothly through our borough and is enjoyed by cyclists and onlookers alike."
Cllr Abdul Khan, Deputy Leader at Coventry City Council, who is responsible for events, said: "This will be a fantastic event for the region, and I know that the route will take riders past Coventry’s iconic Cathedral, which will offer a stunning backdrop.
"I’m sure that riders and the public will come out and support the event. It’s encouraging that there are already a large number of participants signing up to the event. I hope that it is a great success."
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council said: "Warwickshire has firmly established itself as a top venue for cycling having hosted the OVO Energy Women's Tour for the last three years and then the OVO Energy Tour of Britain earlier this month.
"We have seen the positive effects that these have had on the local economy and on the uptake of cycling as a pastime and this wonderful event also offers people the chance to participate and enjoy cycling for themselves.
"We're thrilled to be part of such a massive event and keep Warwickshire at the forefront of people's minds when they think of the best places in which to cycle."