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Fears for rider safety as signs torn down at Wiggle New Forest 100 and mud allegedly spread on road

For the second time this year, a sportive in the New Forest has allegedly been targeted by saboteurs, with signs torn down and one road rendered impassable amid claims that a farmer deposited a layer of mud an inch and a half thick on it.

The latest event targeted, the Wiggle New Forest 100, took place on Saturday and Sunday. Organisers of the event, based in Brockenhurst, have raised concerns about rider safety after signs were removed.

Speaking to the Bournemouth Echo ahead of yesterday’s second day of the event, Martin Barden, director of the organisers UK Cycling Events, said: “We are making constant checks throughout the event

“There have been no injuries yet caused by the saboteurs but we have been keeping one step ahead of them.

“There was potential for serious injury to cyclists and that's why we are taking these precautions.

“It's important that it continues not just for the riders to enjoy their hobby but for them to enjoy the national park.

“The important thing to say is that the event has been extremely well received by the riders and it's been a fantastic boost to the local economy.”

The event had already attracted controversy locally due to the annual pony round-up, or ‘drift,’ when the animals are counted and checked over, cancelled due to safety fears as a result of the large numbers of cyclists attending the weekend’s events.

However, Wiggle New Forest 100 organisers UK Cycling Events said that while sufficient notice of the event had been given, the Verderers who organise the drift had rejected offers to alter it and instead decided to cancel the round-up of ponies.

In April this year, the New Forest Spring Sportive was disrupted by sabotage, with drawing pins spread on the road, more than 1,000 signs torn down, and some motorists driving slowly to impede cyclists’ progress.

Bodies such as the Commoners’ Defence Association, which acts on behalf of the owners of the New Forest’s ponies, and the New Forest Equestrian Association have criticised the growth of mass participation cycling events in the New Forest, claiming they place livestock and other road users at risk.

However, it is motor vehicles that pose the biggest risk to animals in the area. According to a detailed breakdown of figures on the Verderers’ website, there were 64 deaths of livestock and 14 serious injuries as a result of road traffic collisions within the New Forest in 2012.

Some 51 ponies were killed, along with seven cattle and six donkeys, most of the incidents taking place at night. The figures do not include deer, which are not within the Verderers’ jurisidction. 

Private cars are responsible for the vast majority of death of or serious injury to livestock in the New Forest, according to the Verderers’ figures; the last recorded incident of a bicycle being involved in such a collision was in 1999.

Last month representatives of 19 organisations ranging from cycling groups to ones representing local residents met in a follow-up meeting to one arranged in July by the New Forest National Park Authority.

The latest meeting focused on potential changes to the Code of Conduct for cyclists in the New Forest, which will be discussed further at the next meeting, due to take place in December.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

57 comments

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Herbie [14 posts] 4 years ago
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The Wiggle event was on this same weekend last year with no Drift clash, and the Verderers changed their date to this weekend for this year - a blatant attempt to make the event look bad!

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Herbie [14 posts] 4 years ago
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65 animals dies in the Forest last year - all it by cars!

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KiwiMike [1323 posts] 4 years ago
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If a farmer has allowed mud to remain on a public highway that is a criminal offence.

Highways Act 1980 Section 137 “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence”.

Highways Act 1980 Section 148 “If without lawful authority or excuse a person deposits anything whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway he is guilty of an offence”.

Highways Act 1980 Section 161 “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, deposits anything whatsoever on a highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered, that person is guilty of an offence”.

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thereverent [450 posts] 4 years ago
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one road rendered impassable amid claims that a farmer deposited a layer of mud an inch and a half thick on it

Farmers (and other vehicle operatives such as construction companies) are legally obliged to clear up after themselves and are potentially liable for a range of offences. While there is a range of powers available to the police and highways department the primary powers fall under the Highways Act 1980:

Section 148 of the Highways Act 1980 makes it an offence to deposit mud etc. on the highway that would interrupt other users of the highway.

Section 149 of the Highways Act 1980 gives the highways authority the power to clean the road and recover its expenses from the person causing the obstruction.

Section 161 Highways Act 1980 “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, deposits anything whatsoever on a highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered, that person is guilty of an offence”. Contravention of sections 148 and 162 can lead to a Level 3 fine of £1000 in the magistrate’s court. Furthermore if mud on the road leads to personal injury, damage to property, or any loss or inconvenience then the person responsible may be liable for damages. A conviction in the criminal court may be relied on in a claim for damages.

http://www.wrighthassall.co.uk/articles/2012/12/18/whos-liable-mud-road/

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MichaelAkers [3 posts] 4 years ago
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It's not just this event that has been targeted.

I'm a local and often find myself joined by others participating in new forest sportives whilst out on training rides (the more the merrier as far as i'm concerned!).

Anyway during such a training ride my tyre popped instantly due to a tact, at the side of the road whilst changing my innertube a rather fat old gentlemen in a beaten up car pulled up and expressed his delight that 'it was working'....... Interestingly he looks like the guy of the nfcda website..... Karma will ultimately balance this out i'm sure.

BUT

It's a real pity local idiots decide to target such great events that actually help local businesses and community.

Anyway they are smart enough to leave all of their contact details, so if anyone has any complaints or opinions I would contact 02380 892283.

Thanks

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Al__S [1275 posts] 4 years ago
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I'd love to hear if a farmer has ever been proecurted for muddy roads, or indeed if anyone has ever seen anyone cleaning up after tractors. It seems to be one of these laws that exists but is "idle"...

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MichaelAkers [3 posts] 4 years ago
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Also apart from the club secretary:

Here are some local numbers to call - these are 'Agisters' (part of the verdurers. Their responsibilities include ensuring farmers do not spread muck all over the road and leave it their to purposely disrupt other forest users.

Mr. Jonathan Gerrelli
Head Agister 01590 682835 07836 602163

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brackley88 [170 posts] 4 years ago
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Oi! Commoners...it's a National Park! that means it is for all of us!!!

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Goldfever4 [387 posts] 4 years ago
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With my naive hat on, I can't see a logical reason why the drift was cancelled if UK Sporting Events offered to change the date of the sportive.

Oh wait, yes I can, it's because they wanted the headline after cancelling it instead.

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noblematt [7 posts] 4 years ago
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This was my first ever cycling event (let alone sportive) and Wiggle put on a cracking event. I did the full Epic 102miles and the new forest is amazing.

I'm a mountain biker, so have spent a lot of time in various forests around the UK and the New Forest was stunning beyond all of them and the roaming wildlife was great to be around (apart from the bulls running down the road).

I admit, at points, the cyclists took over the road and can see why they would have to close down parts of the working forest, but for 2 weekend a year to act as a massive promotional piece for the area doesn't seem like a bad trade off. I definitely will be visiting the area again and spending my money there.

Matt
(@noblematt)

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Simmo72 [672 posts] 4 years ago
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What a wonderful way of demonstrating. not only dangerous but also puts everyone using the road at risk.

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pepita1 [176 posts] 4 years ago
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Where were the police in all this? On their arses at the cafe having cake and coffee instead of in the saddle and patrolling the course!

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700c [1171 posts] 4 years ago
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Sabotage is an illegal form of protest, which should be dealt with accordingly by the police

However, it clearly demonstrates strong feeling from locals - as with events in Surrey, it's quite possible there has been little consultation with those ultimately affected, beyond getting the requisite permissions.

It does sound as though there were too many participants on this occasion

There is more work to be done, by both event organisers and local authorities, to avoid disruption and ill feeling from locals.

The more this happens, the more likely a backlash against cycling, which is bad for all of us.

Yes, there will always be unreasonable people, but to simply brand them all as NIMBY's is to stifle debate and store up problems for all of us by fostering ill feeling between different road user groups.

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 4 years ago
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I grew up on a farm although I am no longer a farmer, but I love my bikes (bicycles and motorbikes), its OK giving farmers a bashing here guys but lets get some reality on it.

Farmers work in muddy fields, whilst I am sure every farmer in the world would like to grow crops in clean tarmac the technology doesn't allow this as yet, so yes they do have to drive big tractors in and out of muddy fields, and just like when you walk your dog in muddy fields crap leaves the fields with them and this finds its way onto the roads.

It is not deliberate (assuming this farmer didn't do it deliberately by the way), but a farmer will travel in and out of entrances to fields dozens of times a day, its just not realistic to clean the road every time they leave a field.

I do know of farmers who have been warned when the build up of mud was excessive and dangerous, what should happen in this case is warning triangles are placed around the mud, but I don't know of one who was prosecuted as the police understand that farmers work in mud !

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usedtobefaster [207 posts] 4 years ago
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I have it on good authority that the "mud on the road" due to the amount of muck was not simply as a result of a farmer in an agricultural vehicle going about their normal work, but a deliberate dumping of what must have been a large trailer load.

The sections of the highway act quoted above are intended to get farmers to keep the roads in good condition after going about their normal roles.

"but for 2 weekend a year " the problem is it's not just 2 weekends a year these days. Most weekends during the normal cycling season in the forest it seems there is an event going on, and unfortunately like most aspects of life there are a few people that don't want to obey the rules and think they're on a closed road race. I've ridden it and seen it happen and when you combine that with some very intolerant yocals (and I mean yocals) it leads to problems.

Some of the yocals don't seem to appreciate that the roads are public highways and not part of the private kingdom they that think they have either paid or inherited the right to live within.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 4 years ago
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maybe the farmer needs to be reminded who it is who pays his CAP subsidy.

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 4 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

maybe the farmer needs to be reminded who it is who pays his CAP subsidy.

Maybe you need to be reminded who grows the food that you eat

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mrmo [2096 posts] 4 years ago
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mikeprytherch wrote:
mrmo wrote:

maybe the farmer needs to be reminded who it is who pays his CAP subsidy.

Maybe you need to be reminded who grows the food that you eat

So i am paying twice, all the more reason for farmers to remember who the customer is!

Well aware that many farmers forget that they don't own the world, that they are expected to abide by the same laws as the rest of us. Re blocked public rights of way, including but not limited to failure to reinstate after plowing, barbed wire on styles, etc, the moving of livestock during the lock downs, such as foot and mouth. Threating behaviour with dogs, guns etc etc etc. Then we move on to shoots held near public rights of way.... "pest" control... and yes i have seen plenty of such activity over the years.

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brodibike [17 posts] 4 years ago
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We caught horseriders pulling down signs on the Devon Dirt this year. When questioned they said " we don't don't think you should be riding on "our" bridleways!
At Haytor we started using flour markings as they take down the signs and riders then get lost - crazy!
Signs were also removed and some turned around on the Dartmoor Classic within 15 minutes of putting them out.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 4 years ago
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I suspect that many New Forest residents resent any group descending on "their" forest. After all, they've paid handsomely for their relative peace and quiet, and they don't want a load of "oiks" invading their privacy. And those bankers certainly don't want their trophy wives ogling a bunch of fit cyclists at close quarters, do they?

But, from a serious perspective, here are three things that event organisers could do to at least minimise confrontation.

Firstly, replace signs with proper marshalling. Signs just put peoples' backs up and, as we know, they're often removed. Better for the residents, better for the riders and better for the environment.

Secondly, you just know that handing out gels and other wrapped products, when it's clear that a fair number of those wrappers will end up on the road, will be an issue for local residents long after the riders have gone home. Organisers should minimise the problem by offering alternative bonk rations.

Thirdly, organisers shouldn't absolve themselves of blame for any anti-social rider behavour, by just stating, "remember, this is not a race". Let's face it, for many riders, this is as close as they'll ever get to actually racing for real, and that does mean that normal sensibilities tend go out of the window at times. But if organisers were a little more imaginative, perhaps with results based on a cumulative series of sensibly created Strava segments along the route (if you can afford to ride sportives then you can probably afford a "garmin"), then you can dramatically reduce potential conflict with residents and other road users at critical points along a route, because riders will not be "racing" at those critical points. At a stroke, using this concept, you could make a sportive much safer, more socially acceptable, more enjoyable for the riders (especially at feed stations) potentially far more exciting for those who want to "race", and would help neutralise the efforts any hard core saboteurs (which must be a good thing).

Sportives can be great for cycling, but we should be looking more closely at ways to reduce the potential for conflict with other road users, which ultimately affects likelyhood of sportives becoming more strictly regulated, something which, I'm sure, none of us wants to see happen.

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 4 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:

from a serious perspective, here are three things that event organisers could do to at least minimise confrontation.

Firstly, replace signs with proper marshalling. Signs just put peoples' backs up and, as we know, they're often removed. Better for the residents, better for the riders and better for the environment.

Secondly, you just know that handing out gels and other wrapped products, when it's clear that a fair number of those wrappers will end up on the road, will be an issue for local residents long after the riders have gone home. Organisers should minimise the problem by offering alternative bonk rations.

Thirdly, organisers shouldn't absolve themselves of blame for any anti-social rider behavour, by just stating, "remember, this is not a race". Let's face it, for many riders, this is as close as they'll ever get to actually racing for real, and that does mean that normal sensibilities tend go out of the window at times. But if organisers were a little more imaginative, perhaps with results based on a cumulative series of sensibly created Strava segments along the route (if you can afford to ride sportives then you can probably afford a "garmin"), then you can dramatically reduce potential conflict with residents and other road users at critical points along a route, because riders will not be "racing" at those critical points.

Sportives can be great for cycling, but we should be looking more closely at ways to reduce the potential for conflict with other road users, which ultimately affects likelyhood of sportives becoming more strictly regulated, something which, I'm sure, none of us wants to see happen.

some useful points there, neil. it's worth noting that in the grand scheme of things, uk cycling events' sportives are nearer the top of the league table than the bottom in terms of organisation and community interaction. there's literally nothing you can do for some people though: they simply don't want these events to happen.

personally i don't think it'll be long before sportives will need to be licensed. i can't really see why they're not already, especially when we're talking about numbers like you find in the bigger events, and comparing to other things that do require one. i'd like to see a proper framework for this, like we currently have for road racing. it might even be the same framework, modified to accommodate both.

having to apply for a licence – and managing to get one – would thin out the number of events quite a bit, i'd imagine. Especially where there are currently a lot. On the other hand you'd be running a legally licensed event, applied for and rubber stamped through the official channels, and the naysayers would just have to suck it up. and you'd have a lot more recourse to pressure the authorities to take action against people trying to disrupt your legally licensed event.

there's dangers in this kind of approach, the most obvious one being that whatever licensing body is responsible – and we're likely talking county councils – simply refuses to give any out. that being the case it'd be sensible to have some kind of level or quota below which you can't refuse an event that meets the criteria, or something.

dunno, just thinking out loud really. but things will need to change soon, i think.

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usedtobefaster [207 posts] 4 years ago
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I can see these events being licensed but if they're bought under the same restrictions as road racing then it'll kill sportives - why, because of the regulation road races are mainly restricted to localised loops that are covered many times. Sportives take riders over meandering routes which explore different aspects of the country providing a more enjoyable experience for the majority of riders.

Sportive's provide interest as well as a challenge, local UK road races provide a sporting challenge but are damn boring if you're the rider dropped off the back and just doing loops until the finish line.

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Low Speed Wobble [156 posts] 4 years ago
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I really don't get the attraction of a sportive. Paying to ride on otherwise free roads, with hundreds of cyclists you'll never know, and guaranteeing to cause mass inconvenience to those who the route takes you past (it does, just grow up and face it). When did planning a long ride with your mates fall out of favour? I just don't get it.

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ajmarshal1 [417 posts] 4 years ago
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Low Speed Wobble wrote:

I really don't get the attraction of a sportive. Paying to ride on otherwise free roads, with hundreds of cyclists you'll never know, and guaranteeing to cause mass inconvenience to those who the route takes you past (it does, just grow up and face it). When did planning a long ride with your mates fall out of favour? I just don't get it.

Because for some reason people want certificates and photos of them with a number on their bike.

That said, you could say the same about the Great North Run etc. People like being part of something. I don't ride sportives myself but won't knock those who do.

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 4 years ago
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usedtobefaster wrote:

I can see these events being licensed but if they're bought under the same restrictions as road racing then it'll kill sportives - why, because of the regulation road races are mainly restricted to localised loops that are covered many times. Sportives take riders over meandering routes which explore different aspects of the country providing a more enjoyable experience for the majority of riders.

Sportive's provide interest as well as a challenge, local UK road races provide a sporting challenge but are damn boring if you're the rider dropped off the back and just doing loops until the finish line.

i wasn't suggesting that they're both restricted to the same sorts of courses. the requirements are different. just that possibly the process for licensing mostly exists already

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TheSpaniard [108 posts] 4 years ago
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noblematt wrote:

to act as a massive promotional piece for the area doesn't seem like a bad trade off. I definitely will be visiting the area again and spending my money there.

Matt
(@noblematt)

That's the last thing the locals want, believe me.

Our club rides take us out to the New Forest most weekends and despite our best efforts we have hassle from locals pretty much every time. To them it's their forest and they don't want anyone else to use it.

The only people that are welcoming to cyclists are café owners, who would struggle to stay in business through the off season without the regular trade cyclists bring.

Interestingly we didn't see any of the reported problems this weekend on our ride, other than a few signs on the floor but that looked more like it was due to the local wildlife (cattle/ponies, not people!) walking into them.

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SteppenHerring [353 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm not sure what the rules are for Sportives. I have organised one (proper) Time Trial and I know that for that I had to:
* Put in a police permission form
* Perform a risk assessment
* Put out signs and marshalls as specified by the CTT document
* Make riders aware of rules and report any infractions

It seems that with a Sportive you can do as you please. I have heard of "proper" events (road races) being cancelled by police because a sportive (which the police can't cancel) is going through. Madness.

It's great that there are so many people out there enjoying road cycling but organisers have to let them know that tossing gel wrappers, riding 5 abreast up hills, scaring other vulnerable road users (leisure cyclists, horse riders) is not on.

It would be helpful too if the police let others know that threatening cyclists or sabotaging events is not on either.

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sean1 [177 posts] 4 years ago
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There seems to be quite a lot of opinion about whether Sportif style, large participation cycling events are a nuisance or dangerous.

I have yet to see any evidence that they endanger wildlife, livestock, other road users, or cause a significant nuisance to local people.

What is happening here is a very small, but well organised group of New Forest residents have run a very effective anti-cycling campaign.

So effective that even on this cycling forum cyclists are having a bash at Sportif events and calling for 'regulation'.

Can we have some facts please.

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sean1 [177 posts] 4 years ago
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On the New Forest National Park Website there is some guidance to cycling event organisers and riders. All very good common sense advice.

It would be interesting to know if the Sportif organisers followed this advice in respect to the Wiggle ride.

http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/info/20045/things_to_do/36/cycling/7

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Ben Burns [60 posts] 4 years ago
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I was on the Sunday ride. Great day out, very pleasant locals and the drivers were very patient too! I thought Wiggle also did a great job of running the event and marshalling the route at key junctions/feed stations.

My only negative point was the numbers. I thought it was heavily over subscribed. I've done a few sportives and barring the Etape du Tour the 'groups' tend to trickle out after the first 10 miles or so, at some you wouldn't realise you were on a sportive until you got to a feed station or the finish! Yesterday there seemed to be a constant stream of riders for the whole route. At hills this quite easily bunches to 4-5 riders wide. On some of the narrow roads this could get very frustrating for road users.

One thought I had was they could try one of the big sportives on a weekday....I wonder how many complaints from locals you would get then, mind you I wonder how many people would turn up!

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