Hampshire & Isle of Wight

New Forest cycle sportive event 'targeted by vandals'

New Forest Sportive
Image caption The annual New Forest Sportive route takes cyclists up to 58 miles through the New Forest

A mass cycle ride through the New Forest was targeted by vandals throwing metal tacks in the road, organisers have claimed.

UK Cycling Events said there was a "a concerted attempt" to disrupt the annual Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive on Saturday.

At one point protesters blocked part of the 58-mile (93km) route of the commercial, non-competitive event.

Hampshire Constabulary confirmed it was investigating reports of vandalism.

While Saturday's ride did take place around the New Forest's lanes, flooding at the control centre near Brockenhurst led to the postponement of cycling on Sunday.

Martin Barden, of UK Cycling Events, said tacks and drawing pins had been put down on lanes near Boldre which marshals had removed before any cyclists arrived.

Police said about 35 protesters had blocked the road at Blackwater Forest car park on Saturday morning but dispersed when officers arrived.

'Extremely dangerous'

There were also hundreds of incidents of direction and safety signs being damaged or removed.

The event had been criticised by horse owners and others who raised safety concerns and said it created "no-go zones" for other forest users.

However Dr Tony Hockley, of the New Forest Equestrian Association (NFEA) said he "deplored" any actions like putting tacks or pins on the road.

"It is unlikely to be anyone in the horse-owning community responsible as tacks can be extremely dangerous to horses and the consequences can be severe," he said.

He expressed concern at organisers' plans to reschedule the event for June when he said the forest would be busier.

UK Cycling Events insists its events comply with all safety and planning guidelines and benefits local tourist businesses.

Mr Barden said: "It's a lot of people but we have safety crews and marshals to manage it effectively. Everyone should have the right to enjoy their own pastimes - the New Forest is a 'national' park."

Last month, New Forest East MP Julian Lewis, wrote to transport minister Norman Baker calling for such events to be subject to the same licensing regulations as road races currently are.

The National Park Authority previously said it would "actively monitor" cycling events.

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