Etape Caledonia protests called off… until 2012
Protesters instead to focus on setting up their own cycling events in Perthshire
This weekend's Etape Caledonia will not face protests about the closure of roads along its route, instead the Anti Close Road Events (ACRE) pressure group opposing the event will put its energies into organising its own cycling events from 2012.
The Etape Caledonia is the UK's only closed road event and takes place in the Perthshire countryside around Pitlochry through some of the most stunning scenery in the British Isles and has consistently attracted large numbers of cyclists from all over the country. It has also encountered a measure of controversy locally with a minority of residents vehemently opposed to the road closure, culminating last year in an attempt to sabotage the event when large numbers of carpet tacks were strewn over a section of road causing hundreds of punctures, damage to some bikes and leading to a delay while the road was cleared. A local solicitor and former parish councillor, Alexander Grosset was later charged with spreading the tacks although to much consternation the Crown later dropped the case.
This year ACRE which strongly disassociates itself from the tack attack was planning to protest against the event in a peaceful manner, this protest has now been called off. ACRE will also not protest at next year's Etape Caledonia either.
However, for the Etape to take place in 2012, IMG, the organisers will need to reapply to Perth and Kinross council for a further round of road closures and at this point ACRE says it will argue that IMG has had its turn and now its time for more locally based year-round cycling events to be organised off road and on open roads – which it will organise. One of the group's suggestions is to have a virtual event, along the lines of the Four Seasons Fred Whitton, which allows riders to tackle the demanding Fred Whitton Challenge route year-round and get a timed result.
ACRE also wants a full public consultation before any new deal is struck citing a lack of consultation over the original deal with IMG as one of the reasons for their protest – something strongly refuted by both the council and IMG. Responding to ACRE's latest statement, a council spokesman told the Press and Journal:
“Acre is a tiny group and it is very much in the minority. The vast majority of Highland Perthshire businesses and people support the Etape Caledonia and the significant economic benefits it brings to the area.
“The council has not taken a view on any plan Acre has come up with.
“We are instead concentrating on helping to deliver what promises to be the most successful Etape Caledonia event so far this weekend.”
Tricia Fox, speaking for IMG told the BBC:
"What they are proposing is a non-event and we don't see it having any real affect on the local economy."
Ms Fox also dismissed ACRE's claim to have 500 local supporters as “nonsense”.
ACRE says its argument is not with cyclists but with the council and all those we know that have taken part in previous editions say the one thing riders can be sure of at this years's Etape Caledonia is a warm and generous welcome from the locals, and if the weather forecast is right you should have good weather too.