Protesters put an almost hour-long halt to today’s UCI Cycling World Championships men's road race in Scotland, blocking the road – with one reportedly cementing their hand to the surface – and forcing the riders to stop eighty kilometres into the route between Edinburgh and the finishing circuits in Glasgow.
As the riders entered a hilly section of the route between Bonnybridge and Lennoxtown, approaching Crow Road, a strong nine-rider breakaway containing Great Britain’s Owain Doull and Ireland’s Rory Townsend was stopped with 191km remaining due to the protest.
A group of chasers and the main peloton (who, of course, were unable to be informed in advance due to the lack of race radios at the world championships) were also stopped as the race organisers dealt with the incident which, according to GCN-Eurosport commentator Adam Blythe, involved one or more protesters “cementing their hand to the road”.
Environmental group This Is Rigged have claimed responsibility for the protest and said four of its activists were involved. Police Scotland also confirmed that five people were arrested after the road was cleared.
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.”
In the wake of the sudden race stoppage, Police Scotland confirmed that it was "aware of a protest in the Carron Valley area" and "officers are currently in attendance and engaging with protesters".
Images circulating also appear to confirm that the protest involved cement, as officers took over half an hour to remove the protesters and begin to clear the road.
The UCI said it was "working closely with all relevant authorities to minimise disruption to the race and also to ensure the safety of riders as our paramount concern".
UCI President David Lappartient also told the riders that, while the bunch could be swiftly rerouted to allow the race to restart, the lengthy delay owed to the fact that it would prove much more difficult to reroute the event’s vast cavalcade of motor vehicles, including medical and emergency personnel.
The neutralisation was eventually ended at 12.15pm, over fifty minutes after the riders initially stopped, with the groups heading back up the road according to their corresponding time gaps before the protest halted the race.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that climate protesters have put a stop to a major cycling race by blocking the road.
Just last year, activists from the French environmental campaign group Dernière Rénovation staged two protests at the Tour de France.
The first, on stage 13, saw EF Education-EasyPost’s Alberto Bettiol stopped in his tracks by a group of protesters who sat tied to each other across the road, blocking the race’s path, while setting off flares.
The protest, which forced the stage to be paused for over ten minutes, was quickly claimed by 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.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.