Etape Caledonia sabotaged by disgruntled locals
3,500 riders forced to wait as tacks are strewn on the roads
The Etape Caledonia, the UK's only closed-roads sportive, was delayed yesterday after protesters scattered thousands of carpet tacks onto the route. A statement from the organisers on the event's website stated:
"Firstly, well done to those of you who competed this Sunday. Your spirit and patience was outstanding. We wanted to let you know the facts that we have available at this stage.
"It is believed that local protestors scattered a large number of carpet tacks along significant sections of the course. The safety issue was highlighted by the lead group of cyclists experiencing punctures at a specific section at Innerhadden and Schiehallion, 43 miles into the route. Subsequently hundreds of additional cyclists also received punctures as they approached the area.
"As a result of safety concerns, primarily that cyclists could receive punctures in fast sections of the course and subsequently fall from their bikes at high speeds, IMG, in co-ordination with the local police and council implemented immediate safety contingencies [according to at least one witness some cyclists did come off their bikes as a result of puncturing].
"These contingencies included holding competitors mid course, resulting in a delay to the participants taking part in the event, while the roads were made as safe as possible. Once we were satisfied with the safety of the course the event was resumed.
"We are treating this matter very seriously and are working with the local police and local council to investigate matters further.
We are now going through the results to make as much sense as possible of the delays. These will be sent out as soon as possible. We will be sending more information to all competitors on Monday 18th May."
A spokesman for Tayside Police later told the BBC: "It was fortunate no-one was injured as a result of this irresponsible behaviour. Uniformed and detective officers are carrying out inquiries in the area and are following a positive line of inquiry."
Local feelings about the event are invariably mixed, and it doesn't take a great deal of detective work to find blog entries such as the one at http://tinyurl.com/pxck78 which accuses the local council of being cosy with the organisers, bullying local businesses and "obfuscating and denying the genuine feeling of public anger being expressed". Another article at http://tinyurl.com/q56pll claims that a survey they conducted after last year's event found that 50% of locals said the event should definitely not be repeated; 17% said probably not - and only 24% were supportive.
Some of those who dislike the three hour event claim it restricts their freedom of movement, and that visitors may be put off coming to the area, affecting tourism and business, and locals could be prevented from getting to church. Local supporters point out that it attracts 3500 people to the area many of whom will stay at least one night beforehand spending money in local shops, businesses and hotels
The Etape Caledonia raises money for Macmillan Cancer Support and the charity estimated that the event would raise £225,000 this year to help fund its work