Saturday’s Wiggle New Forest Sportive was marred by sabotage as more than 20 riders sustained punctures after protesters scattered nails on the road in the New Forest village of Bransgore.
This incident was the third time saboteurs have attempted to disrupt sportives in the New Forest. In October the Wiggle New Forest 100 was targeted and last April the Wiggle New Forest Sportive also suffered a tack attack.
Fortunately there were no casualties in Saturday's incident. Organiser Martin Barden and local MP Julian Lewis both slammed the attack on the event.
The Daily Echo’s Michael Carr reports that Julian Lewis said top level talks were going on with Government ministers and national park chiefs to resolve tensions between residents and cyclists.
Lewis said: “It does not help anyone when people, however frustrated they feel, do something that could lead to a nasty accident or at the very least a nasty confrontation.
“I'm hoping that the cause of the provocation will sooner rather than later be sorted out but taking the law into one's own hands is not the way forward.
“Doing something illegal and dangerous is never the right thing to do.”
He added: “This whole issue is absolutely being focused on by local elected representatives' right up to Government ministers. I would appeal to the community to disassociate themselves from these actions.”
Sportives in the New Forest have been plagued by controversy as a small but vocal group of locals have campaigned vociferously against them.
Last week, posters appeared in villages along the route, condemning the event as "an abuse of our tranquil locality" and warning it "could put members of the public at risk" the event.
But one long-time opponent of the rides, New Forest Equestrian Association chairman Tony Hockley, decided to take part to see for himself what effect the riders had on livestock.
He said he had seen a herd of cattle “spooked” by riders, but said that on the whole cyclists behaved well.
He said: “There are a few cyclists who had that 'hell for leather' mentality - but that was a minority.”
“I did see some cyclists overtake on blind bends and narrow lanes, one even overtook me on a right hand turn on the wrong side of the road.
“Most of the riders rode in single file, and nearly all of them behaved very well.”
Martin Barden, director of event organiser UK Cycling Events said: “The New Forest Spring Sportive was a great success, with the participants enjoying wonderful weather conditions. The new route, event headquarters and additional marshals worked extremely well. The majority of locals residents where extremely supportive of the event, and the riders really appreciated them clapping and cheering them on as they completed the course.
“It was surprising and disappointing to see a handful of anti-cycling campaigners trying to disrupt the event again this year by throwing tacks onto the road on several occasions. Our support teams however, cleared these away before they could harm the riders, local drivers and new forest animals.
“It was great to see so many families taking part and riders cycling to raise vital funds for our national charity partner Prostate Cancer UK. We are also delighted to have donated £3,000 to the amazing local New Forest charity Oak Haven Hospice.
“We will as always continue to work with the local residents and authorities to refine the way our event operates in the future to ensure minimal disruption is caused.”
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