The organiser of a popular New Forest sportive targeted by would-be saboteurs is hopeful prosecutions will be brought against the “hooligans and vandals” who removed £4,000 worth of event signs and threw drawing pins on the road.
On Saturday, marshals at the two-day New Forest Spring Sportive in Hampshire were scrambled to sweep away drawing pins and replace signs so riders could carry on without disruption.
Experienced sportive organiser of UK Cycling Events, Martin Barden, said it was the first time he had experienced vandals targeting one of his events.
“Police are pursuing it currently, we’ve got witnesses etcetera and they’re looking to prosecute,” he told BikeRadar.
The riders were unaffected by the saboteurs’ efforts. He said initial opposition to sportives in the area came from New Forest equine groups, though he emphasised that he wasn’t accusing them of causing the vandalism.
The area is well known for the indigenous ponies that live in the New Forest National Park.
The disruption also occurred in the wake of New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis writing to Norman Baker, the transport minister last week, calling for sportives in the area to be licenced.
Dr Lewis was moved to call for a permit-based system after a number of complaints from local residents about the number of cyclists involved in the events and allegations that many flouted the Highway Code, reported the Daily Echo.
Barden said: “That’s fuelled the whole thing and I think it’s been an excuse for hooligans, vandals or whatever it might be to go a little bit more extreme at the weekend by actually sabotaging the event.”
While the Saturday events – an 86mile and 56 mile route – went ahead, heavy rain meant parts of the course were flooded for the Sunday sportives which have been rescheduled for 1 June.
Barden didn’t anticipate further trouble.
He said: “I imagine we’ll have a prosecution by then I’m hoping, which will be a stark warning to anybody who is looking to do that and we will further upscale what we’ve got and make sure that we’ve got more signs and more marshals than we’ve ever had before.”
In 2009, the Etape Caledonia sportive in Scotland was also marred after tacks were spread on the course, though the man accused of sabotage was later cleared.