Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 12:07 UK

'Not the end' for sabotaged race

Cyclist with puncture
Hundreds of cyclists suffered punctures and the event had to be halted for about 1hr 30mins

Organisers of a Perthshire cycle race have pledged not to give in to pressure from saboteurs who placed carpet tacks across a section of the route.

Hundreds of cyclists had their tyres burst during the 81-mile Etape Caledonia around Pitlochry on Sunday.

The event had angered some locals because the roads are closed to other traffic while the race is taking place.

The director of the event has said they will review security measures but it will go ahead next year.

Jon Hazan said: "We'll be working very hard to ensure that this event continues to go from strength to strength.

"We are going to work very closely with the local police and local council to review our safety measures to ensure that this never happens again.

"We've got a lot of local support and this kind of action just goes to heighten that support.

"Equally we must be more aware than ever before of the effect on people by the road closures and will work very hard to continue to minimise that effect as well."

The tacks were place on a section of road at Innerhadden and Schiehallion - about 43 miles into the course.

Hundreds of cyclists suffered punctures and the race had to be halted for about 1hr and 30mins while the route was made safe.

Many of the 3,500 participants were raising cash for Macmillan Cancer Support and the charity estimated the event would bring in £225,000 to help fund its work.

Mike Beale, president of the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, saw the race grind to a halt at Schiehallion as he waited to cheer his daughter on.

It is extreme action and not typical of the friendly welcome that you receive in this part of Scotland
Mike Beale
Perthshire Chamber of Commerce

He said: "I would really commend the organisers not to give in to what basically is an illegal act.

"If there are discussions to be had about road closures that's fine, but not to take dangerous action which really put people's well-being at risk and the organisers shouldn't give in to that sort of pressure.

"Events like this bring a huge amount of business to the local economy, not only this weekend but visitors come, like what they see, and return on another occasion."

And independent report estimated that last year's Etape Caledonia, which had fewer competitors, boosted the local economy by about £417,000.

Mr Beale believes that most visitors would not have left with a negative impression, despite the trouble.

He said: "These aren't the people of Perthshire who are doing this, these are one or two, a group maybe, who have taken extreme action, and it is extreme action and not typical of the friendly welcome that you receive in this part of Scotland."

The sabotage has prompted many people to email the BBC Scotland news website.

Karen Elwis, from Kinross-shire, said: "Living close to Kinross, we are used to having our routine disrupted not for three hours, but for three or four days every year owing to the T in the Park festival.

"Most locals here put up good-naturedly with any short-term personal inconvenience because they see the massive benefits for our local economy.

"We've even come to enjoy seeing people from all over the world - most of them pretty well behaved - congregating to enjoy a common interest.

"This attack on the Etape Caledonia makes me feel sorry for all the people who have trained for months, in all good faith, to take part - only to have their safety and enjoyment sullied by a spiteful minority who are selfish enough to grudge their community the chance to boost the local economy for the good of all."

Nic Wing from Hertfordshire said: "This reckless act by some morons is not only highly dangerous to the cyclists (and car owners once the road is re-opened) but it does not reflect the way most people feel about cycle racing.

Halted cyclists
Cyclists had to wait while the road was made safe. Pic: Richard Thomas

"If you have ever been in France in the summer when the Tour de France is passing by; the whole town turns out, everyone sits by the road (which is closed for hours to all traffic) and everyone has a great day out."

John Armstrong added: "This disruption has embarrassed myself and anyone who has a conscience.

"It is ridiculous to think that the closure of a road for just three hours on one day of the year can give these people the right to protest with such callous disregard for the wider aims of the race (ie the support of a very worthwhile charity), not to mention the benefits to the local economy and the reputation of us all."

However, there were those who sympathised with the protestors.

Paul Bright from Fortingall said: "How refreshing to see that the public has taken direct action to halt an unwanted event forced on them by the local county council.

"Whilst I cannot possibly condone the causing of damage and possible injuries to cyclists I am sure that this was the only avenue of protest left to the people of the Pitlochry/Aberfeldy area who did not wish this race to occur.

"The alleged benefit of 'millions of pounds' coming into the area is a largely erroneous claim, with only a limited number of businesses, such as bed and breakfasts, benefitting by perhaps a few hundred pounds each.

"These closures have the effect of isolating whole communities from access to services both mundane and emergency and from the ability to exercise their religious faith by travelling to the local churches."

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