Hampshire police have issued a strongly worded warning ahead of tomorrow's re-run of the Wiggle Spring Sportive, that they will not tolerate any attempts to disrupt the event which is expected to attract up to 2000 riders, the original event in April was marred by bad weather and attempts by some local people to disrupt it.
In a statement issued by Hampshire police, Chief Inspector Tony Rowlinson, Police commander for the New forest, said:
“The sportive organisers work closely with us and other organisations in The Forest to make sure they run a safe and well organised, legal event. It’s is not right that people should break the law and try to disrupt it.
“We have been talking to groups and individuals we know that are against the event about how they should conduct themselves.
“I want to make it clear we will not tolerate criminal acts aimed at trying to cause problems for the cyclists taking part or the organisers of the sportive.
“We will be keeping a careful eye on what goes on and will take robust action against anyone disrupting this event.
“We will not accept a repeat of incidents such as tacks being thrown on the road - this could potentially be very dangerous as it can cause the cyclist to lose control. Last time it was just luck that no one was seriously hurt. Removing or damaging road signs can be equally as dangerous.
"I would urge people whatever their views on the sportive to think long and hard about what they are doing it and what the consequences could be.
"We support people’s right to lawful, peaceful protest but we will take action against those that break the law.”
Commander Rowlinson also added that the investigation in to the incidents of sabotage and vandalism surrounding the original running of the sportive were ongoing.
Originally held in April the two day event was cancelled due to bad weather on the second day, but not after falling victim to vandalism, and sabotage on the first and attempts by some New Forest residents to form a rolling road block to hold up the riders. Several hundred route marking signs were stolen or vandalised and tacks were spread in the road causing riders to puncture according to the police who also say that they believe injuries were caused.
While we at road.cc have seen no reports of injures to cyclist taking part in the event It was subsequently reported that a local commuter cyclist was hurt when he crashed after puncturing on the tacks while riding to work.
The actions of the saboteurs drew strong condemnation from all sides. Wiggle Spring Sportive organiser, Martin Barden of UK Cycling Events said, “A small minority of people have taken to vigilante lengths to stop the events,” he said. “Their behaviour is unacceptable.”
Ian Wild, chairman of Boldre Parish Council, described attempts to sabotage the event as “reprehensible” and by many locals including horse riders who pointed out that as well as being a danger to cyclists the tacks posed a risk to animals too. Ironically one of the complaints of those who oppose sportives and other mass rides in the area is that cyclists pose a danger to livestock. According to the New Forest National Park Authority 70 New Forest ponies are killed by motor vehicles every year - to date we are aware of no recorded incident of a cyclist causing death or injury to livestock or wildlife in the New Forest.
Ahead of the original running of the event, the sportive organisers had sought to placate their local critics by warning riders about their behaviour - in particular the need to abide by the Highway Code and show consideration for other road users, and by limiting the numbers of people taking part.
Online entry for tomorrow's ride which offers a choice of 87 mile or 60 mile routes is now closed but places are available for those that turn up on the day - and the weather forecast is good. For more information visit the event website.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.