What happened to Zappi’s CC?

Since I often still wear Zappi/Zappi’s CC  kit when out on the bike, a number of other cyclists have asked me what happened to Zappi’s. I give them a brief answer, but think enough time has now passed to give my view.

These are my opinions and views alone, you may disagree or have a different memory of events, and you can comment, write your own version, or contact me directly. Of course, many others were involved and they can speak for themselves, I will not be naming names here.

Also, none of this relates to any of the racing teams and the successful youth racing setup that continues to thrive under Tony, David, Martin, Jake and others.

Zappi’s CC closed to new members towards the end of 2016. A few members of the club had already moved to Cowley Road Condors, and others had already quit to form a new club: Oxford Cycling Club. However, there were still 80-100 ‘active’ cycling adult members at the time of closure, with many more non-cycling: though the paying membership had shrunk by 60-70 over the final year.

We the ‘ride leaders’ (though I’d not actually led a ride for some time myself I was still very involved e.g. with the Gran Fondo, the website, membership etc) shifted as one to ‘outside the Sheldonian’ (actually the Bodleian), without a name – well maybe Xappi’s. Thankfully the vast majority of active riders moved immediately with us, and we were able to continue riding and start building a new ‘lite’ club. That new club became VC Jericho, and continues to thrive as a very loose / light-touch club (groups of riders that like riding together, essentially: no committee, just a couple of appointed posts and the ride leaders) run with the spirit of the original club.

Those who like more structure/organisation in a club have several choices in Oxford today – I myself although a ‘founder member’ of VCJ, joined OCC, not for ‘structure’ but basically because most of the people I cycled with often, at my speeds, moved there. I am currently a member of both clubs and have good friends in both.

But how did this all come about?

A common comment regarding the end of Zappi’s CC I hear is that ‘I heard it was acrimonious’. Well, not true. It was upsetting, painful, vastly disappointing and very personally stressful. But there were no ‘arguments’ because when a club is run by one person who owns it outright (for profit), argument gets you nowhere. An example of that occurred on the very last evening, when a new ‘home’ for the club was proposed. Almost directly opposite the home of Cowley Road Condors. For many reasons that could not have worked but the mere proposal drove home even at that late hour, just how disconnected Flavio had become.

I still believe that had Flavio remained living near Oxford, the club would still exist because he was the club, and problems got solved to his face – until he formed the under 23 squad and followed his dream – it then became the members’ club, and it changed, something that Flavio himself did not admit, nor maybe understand or even want.

Others will have their own points of inflection. For me there were a couple of fore-warnings – firstly, Summer ’15 when no one was looking after membership. Club ride attendance was high, but only 30% or so were wearing any kind of kit (not that any was available to buy for about 18 months) and under 50% were actually paying members (from shows of hands). The website was also broken – not sending subscription emails, shop not working properly etc  – no-one knew who was a member and who not! None of this was good for Flavio business-wise or the club in general. Several of us spent considerable time trying to ‘right’ all this. Secondly, the new kit: for most of us this simply appeared from nowhere. While good quality it was not ‘club kit’ – very much ‘brand kit’ and not being cheap uptake was low, which contributed to the lack of club members wearing kit. These and other ‘little issues’ started to build up…

As a group of ‘ride guides’ we tried to come to a position of balance, where we would organise the club on behalf of the members, influence kit design etc, while contributing to the Zappi cause. We attempted to communicate and discuss this over 7 or so hours of either group call or face to face (this after another 7 or so hours of my own efforts). But this was not what was wanted nor welcomed. Essentially what was wanted (and still is) were paying brand ambassadors, and that is exactly what Flavio set up immediately in Friends of Zappi Racing Team, which is open for donations. The ‘my way or the highway’ approach ended in us hitting the highway, well, Broad Street anyway.

Several including Flavio have said, ‘why could it not just have continued as it was’. Well, it could have had anyone wanted to try. All the ride leaders at the time were involved with (or invited to) discussions, understood the positions, and all eventually left together, en mass.

Time to move on, preferably in smartly kitted, well disciplined groups of considerate peletons!