Magpie attacks keep coming at World Championships

Notorious birds continue to swoop and attack riders in Wollongong, Australia

Wout Van Aert
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Riders competing at the 2022 road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia will be thanking helmet sponsors for their top of the range lids that they have the privilege of wearing during racing in the coming days. 

First and foremost to protect them from serious head injury in the event of a crash, but also to help to ward off potential dive bombing magpies on the roads of Wollongong. 

Wollongong is home to a large population of the birds and locals refer to the start of the current season as "swooping season" as the birds clatter down into cyclists, pedestrians and anyone they set eyes on in a bid to protect their young. 

Of course, this happens to be just in time for multitudes of world class cyclists using the local roads to train and then compete. 

Bauke Mollema has become the latest rider to share footage on social media of himself and other Dutch riders coming under attack from the birds on a group training ride. 

Other riders currently out in Wollongong have also come under attack recently include recently crowned Vuelta a España champion Remco Evenepoel who experienced being stalked by a magpie ahead of last weekend’s elite men's time trial. 

Evenepoel said: “A fairly large bird came very close and it just kept following me. It was terrifying. But that's Australia, apparently. I hope it's the only time it happens, but I am afraid of it."

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In the footage of Mollema being attacked, a bird clearly swoops down using its feet to collide with the Dutch rider's head, something which is said to be very common in the local area at this time of year. 

However, the dangers from the bird attacks have very occasionally ended badly. In extreme cases the consequences even proved to be fatal. 

In 2019 a man was killed after crashing his bike when attempting to avoid a swooping magpie in the city. 

Paul Partland, a local vet in Wollongong recently shared some advice to the general public as well as cyclists on how to ward off the pesky attackers. 

He said: “Swooping birds tend to target people that are by themselves and also people that are moving in very fast ways. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to slow down the cyclists in their race to take a little side breather as the birds swoop by.

"As we're watching it as pedestrians and spectators we should be walking rather than running."

So far so good, the magpies have largely stayed away from actual events with no riders reporting being attacked during a race. 

Moving forward, the likes of Julian Alaphilippe will be keeping his fingers crossed that if the attacks come in the men’s elite road race next weekend, they are from his rivals for the rainbow bands and not from any aerial attackers. 

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