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Cyclist demands refund in fees for cancelled Whistler Gran Fondo event

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Jul 16, 2020 at 1:30 pm PDT

Cyclists compete in the RBC GranFondo Whistler, crossing the Lions Gate Bridge. (Courtesy: RBC GranFondo Whistler)

A woman says she's entitled to a full refund after organizers of a popular biking event cancelled because of COVID-19

Loretta Stringer and her husband paid about $800 to participate in the GranFondo

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After training vigorously and preparing to travel halfway around the world, a woman says she is out hundreds of dollars in registration fees after organizers for a road cycling ride were forced to cancel due to COVID-19.

Loretta Stringer lives in Dubai and was ready to fly to B.C. for the World Series RBC Gran Fondo finals after qualifying for what she calls an experience of a lifetime.

The long-distance road cycling ride to Whistler was set for September.

Stringer says she and her husband paid about $800 in entry fees and she just wants her money back.

“I think some people are finding it too easy to hide behind the COVID pandemic and they are not standing up or meeting their obligations to the public,” she tells NEWS 1130.

While Stringer says organizers offered to defer payments for the Gran Fondo in 2021 and 2022, she’s not interested in accepting an entry to another event over a year away.

“As a participant, I feel extremely let down. For me, it was a lifetime achievement as a mature athlete. I was travelling with my husband, who was going to take part in the Grand Fondo part of the race, making it a holiday of a lifetime — travelling literally halfway around the world.”

Organizers contacted participants in May to inform them the Whistler Gran Fondo event had been cancelled because of the pandemic.

“They have made it abundantly clear they are not willing to do any refunds,” Stringer says.

Entitled to a refund

Stringer had reached out for a refund and ended up getting in touch with a coordinator for the UCI Gran Fondo World Series and the UCI Gran Fondo.

While Erwin Vervecken explained he couldn’t help with a refund for the Whistler event, he said Stringer should ask for a refund since she had only signed up for the World Series event and not the Whistler GranFondo

“The UCI license fee hasn’t been paid and the organizer must refund all registration fees and the extra services riders orders,” Vervecken writes to Stringer in an email provided to NEWS 1130. “We have urged the organizer to do so, but so far he has only refunded the time trial registrations and offered a voucher for the RBC Gran Fondo Whistler next year.”

“So this doesn’t make sense. [The organizer] has to refund you.”

Noting these are separate events, Stringer takes issue with being expected to participate in next year’s event instead of getting a refund.

“Because the 2021 and, subsequently, the 2022 event will each be held in a different country,” she says. “Not only was it a different event, it was a different cost.”

After reaching out to the coordinator for the Whistler event, Stringer was referred back to the event’s policy statement page that details riders’ registration would be transferred to the 2021 or 2022 event. Anyone who purchased a ticket to the pasta party was also informed it would be valid in 2021, but there’s no indication a refund would be given. Time Trial entries would receive a refund.

“My only conclusion,” Stringer says, “it’s not very sportsmanlike.”

NEWS 1130 has reached out to RBC Gran Fondo for comment.