Police appeal for witnesses as new attempt made to sabotage Etape Caledonia

Echoes of 2009 with tacks and drawing pins spread on course but no repeat of disruption

by Simon_MacMichael   May 15, 2011  

Etape Caledonia logo

An attempt was today made to sabotage the Etape Caledonia, held this morning in Highland Perthshire, for the second time in three editions, with screws, tacks and drawing pins strewn along a five-mile section of the course, in what police say was a “reckless and completely irresponsible” effort to cause disruption to the event.

As it turned out, the event continued and no disruption was caused , unlike in 2009 when many riders fell prey to punctures with some falling off their bikes. A local church elder and vociferous opponent of the Etape was later accused of attempting to sabotage the ride, although charges were later dropped.

Tayside Police are now appealing for help in tracking down whoever it is who was trying to disrupt Britain’s what has been since it's creation the UK's only sportive ride held on fully closed roads, the recently announced Etape Cymru will follow in its tyre track this October. The road closure appears to be the main point of contention among those locals opposed to the event.

A police spokesperson, quoted on STV, said: “Tayside Police are appealing for witnesses following attempts to disrupt the Macmillan Cancer Support Etape Caledonia cycling event taking place today in Highland Perthshire.

“A number of tacks, drawing pins, metal screws and staples were spread across the road at the event between Weem and Strathtay. This is thought to have occurred sometime between Friday 13 and Sunday 15 May, 2011.

“The items were discovered prior to the start of the cycling event; one cyclist who was not connected to the event suffered a puncture.

“The event itself was not disrupted in any way and is ongoing.

“This attempt to disrupt the event was reckless and completely irresponsible and it is fortunate that no injuries were caused. Tayside Police will work closely with the organisers and the local community to find those responsible and to ensure the safety and security of all persons in the area.”

Meanwhile, track legend Graeme Obree played bridesmaid at this morning’s start in Pitlochry, holding the bride’s bouquet as two of the 5,000 entrants got married on the start line before going on to complete the ride together.

The happy couple, Rick Millin and Jo Louden, were given race numbers 1 and 2 by organisers, with the bride saying: "I was in my full cycling gear on the start line - but I did have a veil on and a bouquet which Graeme Obree held for me.

"We got together because of cycling and got engaged coming here last year so it was fitting – it has been lovely.”

Sadly an event featuring a field of over 5000 riders is unlikely to pass off without incident of any kind, and later yesterday it was announced that two riders taking part were airlifted to hospital after an incident on the Tummel Bridge, near Schiehallion on the B846. Both were from Essex and one, according to a report on the the BBC had suffered what was described as "a serious internal injury".

Full results of the 2011 Etape Caledonia are available now on the event website.

12 user comments

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I get the impression from the first event that l'Etape Caledonia (Caledonie surely) was very much thrust on a significant body of the local population without any breaking in of a smaller, less ambitious event, in an area with a fairly limited network of roads (a road closure for works might for example add 90 miles to a 10-12 mile journey, as it has for example when the Oban-Fort William road or Bridge of Orchy-Glencoe routes have been so affected.

Ploughing on when local sensitivities are obviously seriously offended suggest that a bit of rethinking is needed to see if small changes might even mitigate the confrontation of the need for access and a closed road - using timber haul roads for local access (at lower speeds but not a total blockade) and looking slightly shifted over for places that half of a dual carriageway or the section of an earlier route might even be a workable option (given the ridiculous over capacity of the M9 A9 and M90 outside the peak commuting times, and at weekends, when a single carriageway is more than sufficient)

For the urban and mass participation events we have examples already of the running events in Glasgow using the M8 - cycling on the M77 and next week the M74, and from recent trips by car it is clear that, aside from the issue of having to manage the traffic using 3 lanes as a 2-way road, there is so little traffic using the M74 that it could easily be operating as a single carriageway for quite substantial periods at weekends. The UK lags miserably behind the US, South America, and many EU cities in not having weekend or once per month closure of these roads for mass public participation events. Ciclovias for all!

A fortnight ago I only saw 6 trucks (and not a single car) heading South between Hamilton and Beattock Summit and in the 50 miles between the A1 and the M6 (A66) just 1 truck and 3 other cars travelling in my direction. If the motorways are this quiet they present a ready made closed road opportunity, where a parallel route HAS to be available to carry non-motorway traffic, and the M74 provides some pretty challenging terrain and exposed windy sections, with the potential to get up to some impressive speeds with plenty of room.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [560 posts]
15th May 2011 - 16:13


I rode the Etape Today. It was the best day on the bike ever. The course was stunning and lined from start to end with cheering locals. All the townsfolk and local businesses embrace it. We're talking about one mental case trying to kill people here so let's not pretend it's a mass voice. Stunning forests, lochs and mountains...or a MOTORWAY???? I think I know which one I'll choose. See you all next year Etape Caledonia riders and supporters... We've got a jewel here and long may it shine! F**K the haters!! My legs hurt but my soul feels great.

posted by Gazablanca [4 posts]
15th May 2011 - 16:37


Really grateful that this was discovered before the event. Kind of ironic that it was a cyclist not part of the etape that got punctured

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1184 posts]
15th May 2011 - 16:46


Maybe it's time the organisers move the location of the Etape to somewhere else, where the locals appreciate the vast amounts of money spent on hotels, in restaurants, shops, etc for what is a small inconvience. The scenery is fantastic, but there's plenty more of that in Scotland!! If you so miserable you don't like it, try going away for the weekend somewhere, you never know you might even enjoy yourself, but probably not as you type of folk always find something to moan about. Every the cops will find out who did this and hopefully this time there will be some proper court action taken.


posted by Bennyboy [38 posts]
15th May 2011 - 18:12


@A V Lowe

I don't know where you get your information from but "thrust on a significant body of the local population" is completely in error. The Anti-Etape protesters are a very small but vocal minority and if you had ever ridden the thing, you would know that at every village the event passes through; there are are an abundance of locals out clapping and cheering on every single cyclist.

The truth is completely at odds with your post and your ignorance precedes you.

posted by TheRotor [14 posts]
15th May 2011 - 20:20


Makes me want to do this event next year, if only to annoy the inbreeds who did this.

posted by AndyRubio [1 posts]
16th May 2011 - 0:12


I was in aberfeldy a month ago for a training camp and everyone we spoke to was amazingly positive about the etape. AV Lowe might be right about the first year and most people dont like change but I bet the view is now completely the opposite. I think the vast majority realise how many cyclists the publicity of tape brings in that weekend and through out the year. Also no access for one day? If you care so much go away for the weekend or make better plans e.g. Go shopping on saturday.

posted by miffed [169 posts]
16th May 2011 - 9:48

1 Like

It's good to see that this is being taken seriously but if there really was a ground swell of local opposition then it wouldn't have been an isolated occurance.

I live in Perthshire and I rode it yesterday.

Judging by the number of locals out supporting, some of whom had set up their own feed stations, I can assure you that there is overwhelming support for the Etape.

VC Bicycles's picture

posted by VC Bicycles [5 posts]
16th May 2011 - 10:08


giff77 wrote:
Kind of ironic that it was a cyclist not part of the etape that got punctured

No, it would be ironic if the only injury caused had been a backside full of tacks for a person found with a receipt for hardware supplies in his pocket, and a map marked with the route of the sportive and a red cross where the sabotage took place in his glove compartment.

The person responsible is probably the same person who did the same thing two years ago, but was too much of a coward to try it last year. Hopefully the police anticipated this cowardice, and had their eye out in the right places, and on the appropriate people, and are in the process of making an arrest as we speak...

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
16th May 2011 - 12:00

1 Like

@handlebarcam - now that would be satisfying!
@AV Lowe - please can you let me know of the times when the A74 & A66 is devoid of traffic? I regularly travel these roads and would like a good clear run when using them!!

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1184 posts]
16th May 2011 - 15:02


I rode this fantastic event yesterday and was amazed by the road side support particularly on the 2nd half of the course. The route was not particularly challenging but the roads were great and the views fantastic.

I'm not sure Mr Lowe quite understands that half the point of the event is the type of roads and scenery that it goes through. I rode to the start down the A9 and that was the dullest and most uninspiring part of my day.

Thanks to Road CC and Zipvit for the Schwag giveaway that made it possible for me to take part! Big Grin

posted by Jonny7C [64 posts]
16th May 2011 - 18:28


So little traffic on the M74 and A66? Maybe between 3 and 4am...

Dutchie's picture

posted by Dutchie [66 posts]
16th May 2011 - 23:00