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British squad hit by bike theft at Tour of Britain as all 14 bikes stolen from mechanic’s van – just days after team’s rider was hit and “threatened” by 4x4 driver

Lifeplus Wahoo will be able to continue at the four-day stage race, however, after several teams loaned the riders bikes and equipment ahead of today’s stage in Wrexham

Just days after Lifeplus Wahoo were rocked by the news that one of their riders was forced to miss this week’s Tour of Britain Women after being hit by an overtaking motorist at “high speed” on a narrow country lane, the British team’s participation in the race hung in the balance this morning after all 14 of the squad’s bikes were stolen in a shocking raid last night.

Ahead of Friday’s second stage of the revamped Tour of Britain Women in Wrexham, Lifeplus Wahoo announced on social media that thieves had targeted their base at a hotel in Shropshire, raiding their mechanic’s van and stealing the entirety of the squad’s range of Ribble bikes, leaving them without any bikes to race today’s stage – an act described by the squad’s co-founder Bob Varney as a “an absolute hammer blow to our over-achieving team already on a stretched budget”.

However, in response to the team’s shocking misfortune, several teams taking part in the race have loaned the Lifeplus Wahoo riders their spare bikes and equipment, meaning the squad – which includes U23 British time trial champion Maddie Leech and Dutch rider Babette van der Wolf, who finished 22nd on yesterday’s first stage to Llandudno – will take to the start of stage two in Wrexham.

Ribble bikes stolen from Lifeplus-Wahoo at Tour of Britain Women (Lifeplus-Wahoo)

“We woke this morning to find all 14 of our Ribble Endurance SLR bikes stolen from our mechanic’s van,” the UK-based UCI Continental squad posted on social media this morning.

“We are hoping to find a solution to enable us to start in Wrexham today. Stolen from Macdonald Hill Valley Hotel, Whitchurch, Shropshire.”

Responding to Lifeplus Wahoo’s post, Jon Dutton, the CEO of British Cycling – who now organise the Tour of Britain Women following the demise of previous organisers SweetSpot – wrote: “Really sorry to hear this. Our team will do everything we can to help you this morning.”

Lifeplus Wahoo, 2024 Tour of Britain Women stage one (Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

(Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

But with today’s stage, a 140km loop starting and finishing in Wrexham, getting underway at 11.30am, Lifeplus Wahoo were certainly in a race against time to ensure the team could continue following last night’s shocking raid.

That is until, in a heartwarming act of generosity, several teams also taking part in the race, including SD Worx, Liv AlUla Jayco, Human Powered Health, and Cofidis, loaned the Lifeplus Wahoo riders bikes and equipment – with their mechanics also giving up their time to make sure everything was properly fitted – to ensure they could sign on in Wrexham.

Meanwhile, Ribble confirmed on Friday afternoon that the company was sending a new fleet of their Endurance SLR bikes to the race to enable the team to continue on to Sunday’s finish in Manchester.

“Wrexham we are here,” the team posted, just over two hours after announcing the break-in.

“All of our thanks and appreciation goes out to the many teams that offered and gave their spare team bikes and their mechanics time to get our girls on the road. We wouldn’t be starting without them!”

Speaking to British Cycling in Wrexham, Lifeplus Wahoo general manager Tom Varney added: “We’ll be on the start line. We’re extremely grateful to the other teams for lending their equipment, and to their mechanics for giving their time to help us be there.

“The riders are obviously not starting with their own bikes due to the situation overnight, but we’ll be there on the start line and we’ll be ready to fight.

“The feeling is good from yesterday and we have to try to keep the morale high. The girls are super understanding of the situation and once they’re comfortable on the bikes they’ll be ready to go.”

West Mercia Police have also confirmed that an investigation is currently underway into the raid.

> British cyclist to miss Tour of Britain after being hit by driver who tried to "squeeze huge 4x4 past at high speed" on country lane blind bend before returning to "verbally abuse and threaten" female rider

Despite the generosity of the peloton keeping them on the road, this morning’s disappointing news – the latest in a long line of targeted thefts at bike races – is the second bitter blow to have struck the unfortunate British team this week, after one of Lifeplus Wahoo’s riders, Kate Richardson, was ruled out of the Tour of Britain Women after suffering injuries when she was hit by an impatient driver who tried to overtake at “high speed” on a blind bend on a narrow country lane – and who then turned around to abuse the stricken cyclist.

Richardson, who won last month's Rapha Lincoln Grand Prix, was training near Holmfirth in Yorkshire on Monday morning when she was hit by the motorist and suffered a refractured scapula, road rash, and an “incredibly bruised and swollen right hip”.

Kate Richardson's damaged kit after being hit by driver on country lane (Instagram)

“Clearly the driver couldn’t wait ten more seconds to overtake me,” she said on Instagram. “He decided to try and squeeze his huge 4x4 past me at a high speed, hitting me hard and knocking me off my bike.

“Initially, he just drove on but turned around and came back later to verbally abuse and threaten me before getting back in his car and driving off again. Thankfully another driver came across the scene pretty quickly and kindly helped me up and drove me home.

“This of course means no Tour of Britain this week and I’m currently uncertain about what the rest of the season holds. This is a lot more than just a physical injury, it was incredibly scary and I count myself lucky that I walked away relatively unscathed compared to what it could have been. Mentally though, it will take a while to overcome.”

> “Thieves 0 - Team 1”: Bahrain Victorious hit with bike theft attempt on Milan-San Remo’s eve, but Sonny Colbrelli came to the rescue

Unfortunately, as noted above, raids on team vehicles at professional bike races are becoming increasingly common.

In March, a group of thieves attempted to steal Bahrain-Victorious’ Merida bikes the night before Milan-Sanremo, only to be thwarted by the team’s bus driver and 2021 Paris-Roubaix winner Sonny Colbrelli.

In 2021, 22 bikes were stolen from the Italian track cycling team during the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Roubaix, including Filippo Ganna’s gold-painted Pinarello.

The bikes were in a minibus in the car park, ready to be returned to Italy when they were taken. Some of the stolen machines were valued at around £25,000 and had titanium 3D-printed handlebars worth £8,500.

It was the Romanian police’s turn to come to the rescue then, as they recovered 21 of the bikes after a raid on 14 properties in Vrancea County, along with mobile phones, drugs, and around £5,000 worth of cash.

A few months later, British team Saint Piran were also the victim of a bike theft, the Cornwall-based squad losing £30,000 of bikes stolen from a team van in the early hours of a race day in the Netherlands last June, leaving a "big dent" in their finances.

And then in November 2022, dominant women’s team SD Worx issued an appeal after several of the squad’s bikes were stolen in what was described as a “brutal burglary”.

Most recently, bike thefts targeting Euskaltel-Euskadi and Baloise Trek Lions left both teams unable to race at Tour of Slovenia and Baloise Belgium Tour respectively, after thieves targeted the teams for their high-value kit, stealing their bikes and wheels overnight.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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11 comments

Avatar
ktache | 1 week ago
2 likes

This story was mentioned on the radio 2 news today, it was reported that the other teams supplied enough bikes within ten minutes, which did kind of touch me.

Of course, with the reports concerning Ribble on this site, finding 14 top end replacements might take a little while...

Avatar
stonojnr replied to ktache | 1 week ago
1 like

Apparently Ribble have sourced & sent a bunch of replacement bikes to them

Avatar
Rapha Nadal | 1 week ago
1 like

I appreciate that budgets may be stretched for the team but maybe an investment in some Apple Airtags would be worthwhile?

Avatar
stonojnr replied to Rapha Nadal | 1 week ago
3 likes

No, because if the thieves had an iPhone, their phone would within 15 minutes start telling them there's an Airtag not associated to their account following them around.

The airtag itself then helpfully starts an audible notification so you can pinpoint exactly where it is, dump it and be on your way with the bike, whilst the owner is left tracking a false trail.

Avatar
dubwise | 1 week ago
1 like

If it wasn't for bad luck the team would have no luck at all.  They say things come in 3s, I hope this is not the case for the team.

I wish Lifeplus Wahoo all the very best, hopefully they can turn this around.  As I said on the article about Kate Richardson, don't let the fkrs grind you down.

Avatar
ChasP | 1 week ago
8 likes

Just about sums up the reality of cycling in the UK unfortunately.

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 1 week ago
7 likes

I know races are often run on the tightest of budgets but given the long list above of bike thefts from team vehicles wouldn't it be wise for the organisers to arrange a secure park with a guard or guards where all the teams can leave their vans overnight - perhaps renting overnight space in supermarket or multistorey car parks, locations that may already have security in place?

Avatar
Brauchsel replied to Rendel Harris | 1 week ago
6 likes

That was my thought. Even with an early start, I don't leave bikes in or on a vehicle unattended overnight. It should be safe to do so, but it isn't. Commiserations to the riders and the rest of the team though, it's gutting enough just having one bike stolen without it ruining an event you'd put huge amounts of effort into training for. 

Avatar
andystow replied to Rendel Harris | 1 week ago
1 like

Or modify the van (assuming it's not just rented) with a very loud, hard to disable, alarm, and run enough cable locks through the bikes to the chassis to slow them down. Should work unless it's an inside job.

Avatar
stonojnr replied to andystow | 1 week ago
3 likes

I'm sure they take all reasonable precautions for security of their bikes, they've been around as a team for nearly a decade so they know what the situation is.

But you don't steal 14 bikes as just a random act of theft, these were clearly professional thieves who specifically targeted that teams hotel.

Avatar
morgoth985 replied to stonojnr | 1 week ago
3 likes

Agreed, but that's even worse.  Organised crime being yet another thing that cyclists in this insane country have to deal with.

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