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“I was busting for a pee – they did me a favour!” Mixed response from riders after climate protesters stop world road race championships for an hour

The protest, which saw activists glue themselves to the road, was claimed by This is Rigged, a group which has previously targeted cycling team sponsor Ineos

While yesterday’s world road race championships belonged to Mathieu van der Poel, as the flying Dutchman overcame a late crash and a busted shoe to etch his name ever deeper into cycling history, much of the discussion in the aftermath of one of the greatest worlds in recent years focused on a protest that took place before the riders had even reached the tricky, rollercoaster streets of Glasgow.

About eighty kilometres into the opening portion of yesterday’s race, which took the riders from Edinburgh to the city centre circuit in Glasgow, a group of protesters glued themselves to the road, forcing the race to be neutralised for almost an hour as the police and race organisers dealt with the situation (and the riders did their best to keep warm and occupy themselves during the unplanned hiatus).

After the protesters were removed and the road cleared, Police Scotland confirmed that five people were arrested, while environmental activist group This Is Rigged quickly claimed responsibility for the disruption, which they said was carried out to draw attention to cycling’s sponsors in the oil and gas industry, as well as Shell-backed British Cycling’s approach to trans athletes in sport.

Glasgow world championships road race stopped due to protest (GCN) 5

> UCI Cycling World Championships road race stopped as protester reportedly “cements hand to road”

This is Rigged recently targeted the Scottish Parliament and the Grangemouth oil and gas petrochemical plant, the largest manufacturing site of cycling team sponsor Ineos.

In a statement, one of the protesters, 21-year-old Cat, said: “The fact that Ineos has been allowed to sponsor a team in the race around the Campsie Fells – which were engulfed in wildfires last month – is a disgrace and an insult to the both cycling community and the people of Scotland.

“We cannot continue with business as usual while our country burns and our futures are ruined. Time is of the essence and we need to act like it. The Scottish government must stand up to Westminster and oppose all new oil and gas, and implement a fair transition now.”

2023 world road race championships stopped following protest (Alex Broadway/

(Alex Broadway/

Speaking after the race, most riders focused on the hour-long protest’s effect (or otherwise) on the race, with the response proving decidedly mixed.

British rider Owain Doull, who was in the breakaway that was seven minutes up the road at the time of the protest, and therefore the first to be stopped, said the neutralisation came at an opportune time for him.

“I was busting for a pee, so I was quite happy to stop. They did me a favour!” the 30-year-old, who finished 18th after his stint in the break, joked to reporters, including, at the finish.

Owain Doull rests as 2023 world road race championships stopped following protest (Pauline Ballet/

Doull relaxes during yesterday’s impromptu lunchtime break (Pauline Ballet/

Asked about how the situation unfolded from the perspective of the riders, Doull said: “They said there was a protest going on, that the police would have to use some special stuff to remove them, and it was all proper procedure. But from the off they said it’s probably going to take half an hour.

“I think the race organisers had some practice with this kind of scenario, so they were pretty organised, pretty drilled.”

He continued: “I think there was a fair chance a protest like this was going to happen. But in fairness to the race organisers, there’s not much you can do.

“And they picked a really good part of the course to protest on, I think they must have done a recon! It was the narrowest part of the course, pretty isolated.

“But at the end of the day, it didn’t affect the race that much, nothing changed the outcome. The legs were a little bit cold when we had to get going, but it didn’t affect my race or anyone’s race.”

2023 world road race championships stopped following protest (Alex Broadway/

Nielson Powless and George Bennett lean in to watch UCI President David Lappartient’s latest cat video on YouTube (Alex Broadway/

That nonchalant approach to the protest was echoed by Neilson Powless, who also said that “in the end, I think it was a good thing for my teammate Kevin [Vermaerke], he was in the breakaway and it gave him some rest. I was happy with a bit of a rest too!”

Belgium’s Jasper Stuyven was somewhat more critical, however, of how the protest affected the race.

“It was a bit annoying afterwards, for us especially, because we were controlling the race with France and Slovenia, then it was a bit of chaos,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but I was so on the limit at the end I didn’t even remember it happened.”

Meanwhile, Stuyven’s teammate and silver medallist Wout van Aert said: “It felt like we were there for an hour, and starting from zero – although I’m used to that from cyclocross – the first five minutes were painful.”

2023 world road race championships stopped following protest (Alex Broadway/

Mathieu van der Poel enjoys a break and joke, before going on to make history down the road in Glasgow (Alex Broadway/

The mixed response – and the focus on the protest’s impact on the race and its riders – recalls the similar reaction to the demonstration that briefly stopped stage 13 of last year’s Tour de France.

> “They’re protesting about a good thing”: Tour de France riders, organisers and journalists react to climate protest

That particular protest, which forced the stage to be paused for over ten minutes, was quickly claimed by French climate change group Dernière Rénovation, who accompanied a photo of the demonstration on their website with the caption: “Non-violent disruption is our last chance to be heard and avoid the worst consequences of global warming.”

Some of the eight protesters also wore t-shirts with the slogan “We have 989 days left”, in an attempt to highlight the urgent need for governments to act on the climate crisis.

Alberto Bettiol, who was the first to reach the protesters on that occasion last July, said afterwards: “These are things that happen, but they shouldn't happen, because in the end, we're working and they could do it differently.”

Meanwhile, Bahrain-Victorious’ British rider Fred Wright, part of the chasing group behind Bettiol, opted for a more balanced perspective on the protest: “They're protesting about a good thing, but it's not great when it's at the front of the Tour de France.”

Ryan joined 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 Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’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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