Saboteurs Target New Forest Cycle Event

Cyclists taking part in an event in the New Forest were targeted by saboteurs who placed tacks on the road to puncture tyres, police said.

Officers conducted house-to-house inquiries in the village of Bransgore after 15 cyclists taking part in the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive suffered punctures on Saturday, Hampshire Police said.

It is the second time the 84-mile race in the picturesque national park has been targeted, and it came after posters were put up locally last week warning of the "abuse of our tranquil locality'' caused by the 2,000 cyclists taking part.

Martin Barden, of race organiser UK Cycling Events, said: "It was surprising and disappointing to see a handful of anti-cycling campaigners trying to disrupt the event again this year by throwing tacks on to the road on several occasions.

"Our support teams, however, cleared these away before they could harm the riders, local drivers and New Forest animals.''

He added that the majority of local people were supportive of what had been overall a successful event, cheering and clapping the riders.

A Hampshire Police spokesman said they were alerted to reports of tacks in Braggers Lane in Bransgore, on the south-western edge of the New Forest.

He said: "Fifteen cyclists suffered punctures, nobody was injured. Police removed the tacks and house-to-house inquiries were undertaken to identify if any witnesses had seen what had happened.''

Richard Cooper, 34, a land surveyor from Farnham, Surrey, was one of the cyclists affected. He gave up around 10 miles into the 62-mile version of the event after getting four drawing pins stuck in his tyres in quick succession.

He said he turned onto a long undulating straight road in the national park and saw "dozens of cyclists on the grass verge fixing punctures''.

He added: "I rode down it halfway and then someone shouted 'drawing pins are out'. I had a look down at my tyre and saw something in there that was knocking at the frame. I hoped it was a stone but I pulled over and saw it was a drawing pin.''

He then found two more pins in his rear tyre, he said, so he replaced both inner tubes.

"I carried on down the road and had not even gone a mile and I had another drawing pin in my front tyre,'' he said.

"I didn't have any more inner tubes and I still had 50 miles to go. I decided if they did not want us there that day then I didn't want to be there. So I turned around and went back.''

He said because the pins had large heads and there were narrow-gauge road tyres on many bikes, they could have suffered a lack of grip in corners and potentially a dangerous crash.

"It only takes a wobble of the handlebars and you are under a bus or anything,'' he said.

The Sportive is the latest cycle event to be targeted by saboteurs. Dozens of cyclists reportedly suffered punctures during last year's Etape Cymru after nails were strewn across roads on the route in North Wales.

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