Saboteurs attempted to bring the New Forest Spring Sportive to a halt at the weekend by spreading tacks on the road, and removing and defacing route signage.
Their efforts had a tragic effect as one local resident not involved in the sportive suffered a puncture, fell and broke their collarbone.
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Prior to the event, some local residents and businesses had aired their concern at the expected 4,000 cyclists visiting the area for the sportive. They say that cyclists pose a danger to other New Forest road users, do not adhere to the Highway Code and can frighten horses using the roads.
One local business placed a poster in its window asking anyone who sees cyclists ‘compromising safety’ during the event to report them to the parish council. The majority of local trades, however, see the event as bringing in valuable business.
Martin Barden of New Forest Spring Sportive organiser UK Cycling Events said that the saboteurs are a ‘small minority of anti-cyclists’.
“Signs were broken and tacks were spread on the road, but none of this affected the event,” Barden told Cycling Weekly. “The riders taking part didn’t know any different.”
UKCE marshals swept the affected sections of road and replaced signs prior to the start of the event on Saturday.
Signs ripped from posts and thrown onto the ground
“The principle behind the sabotage is to protect the New Forest, but spreading tacks on the road is not appropriate as they could harm local animals. Taking down signs and then spreading them as litter across the countryside is also not appropriate.”
“We know who did it and have got their registration number. The police are taking it very seriously. The will pursue and prosecute the people involved,” said Barden.
Last week, New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis write to Transport Minister Norman Baker calling for a licence system to be introduced to regulate cycling events in the area, according to the Southern Daily Echo.
The New Forest Spring Sportive was originally scheduled as a two-day event. Sunday’s ride was cancelled not due to sabotage but due to heavy rain on Saturday causing flooding of the event HQ and some of the roads. It has been rescheduled for June 1.
The closed roads Etape Calendona sportive in Scotland was by sabotage in 2009, when a local man was charged with spreading tacks across the roads. The event was temporarily stopped as the roads were cleared, but many cyclists were forced to withdraw after suffering multiple punctures. The charges were later dropped. The event was sabotaged again in 2011 but took place last year without any disruptions.