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Saboteurs Target Valleys Velo Sportive with Camouflaged Tacks on High Speed Bwlch Descent

by Nick Gregory

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The Valleys Velo Sportive has become the latest event to fall victim to saboteurs, in a particularly disturbing incident that saw camouflaged tacks being spread on the descent from the Bwlch into Nat-y-Moel - the fastest part of the course. As many as 75 riders are believed to have suffered punctures, but miraculously no one was injured, after drawing pins that had been painted black caused havoc during the South Wales sportive. 

One participant, Richard Manning, punctured at 80kph and recounted the incident to road.cc: "The first riders were at the side of the road just before the 180 degree hairpin and I noticed a 'clicking' from my front wheel about 50 yards before the hairpin. From my Strava activity I was doing about 80 kilometres an hour at that point! I picked up two tacks at separate points on the descent. Fortunately neither resulted in a rapid loss of air so I was able to stop safely and repair my tubes." 

He added:  "The placement of these drawing pins on a really fast descent, just before a hairpin bend can only lead to the conclusion that the saboteur was hoping to cause serious injury - or even death. Add to this painting them black to camouflage them on the road shows a level of planning I find deeply distressing. I only hope that the culprits are caught and that their punishment is enough to dissuade others from this." 

This video posted to YouTube by Glenn Jones, shows many riders carrying out repairs at the roadside from around 3 minutes in. 

In 2011 the Etape Caledonia was targeted by saboteurs who spread tacks on the route, as was the Wiggle Etape Cymru in 2013. The ongoing disputes in the New Forest have also seen events there fall victim to sabotage. 

However, organiser of the Valleys Velo Sportive, Jamie Rowland of The Bike Doctor has issued an appeal for help in tracking down the perpetrators:

I couldn't believe it when I first received the call to say what was happening. My heart sunk thinking of the riders and their safety, all their training and effort undone by some mindless idiot! 

Our first priority as always was rider safety. The marshal point on top of the Bwlch was contacted immediately to warn the riders of the tacks and slow them down before they tackled the descent. All available marshals and volunteers were immediately sent to the scene with brushes along with the event vehicles and course mechanics. St Johns were already stationed at the Bwlch, thankfully their assistance wasn't required as no accidents had occurred! 

Most riders had already fixed their punctures and were on their way, the reminder of people were given free tubes and help given to change their punctures where required. The spirit and camaraderie of all the riders involved after what had unfolded was truly remarkable! 

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It soon became apparent that the first wave of riders didn't suffer any punctures, this along with the distance covered by the tacks has led us to believe they were scattered from a vehicle during the event shortly after the first wave had passed through. 

We are appealing for anyone who has any information regardless of how little or insignificant they believe it to be to please get in touch with us. We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators,  with a time scale of events and local C.C.T.V. footage of passing vehicles we will be able to identify the vehicle and find the guilty party! 

If you have any information you can email Jamie at:  valleysvelo@thebicycledoctor.com

Despite the incident, Jamie and his team remain defiant and have already opened entries for 2015. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews of the event on Cyclosport (63 reviews 96.8% average), they'll be no shortage of people keen to return. 

"Excellent value for money, brilliant organisation and amazing marshalls. The whole course was clearly signposted and the route itself is exceptionally beautiful. The race HQ had everything you could need; ample parking, toilets, etc. Cannot recommend it highly enough!" - Emma Feehan 

"Would consider the event the best in Wales - value for money, well organized, excellent signage and marshalling , feeding stations were well above average plus facilities at the start/finish were impeccable." - Marie August 

"A well run event from online entry through to the finish line, for a first time event you couldn't ask for more! Signing on was a breeze and the free T shirt in the goody bag was top quality. I thought the route was very challenging but very well thought out, with some real testing climbs thrown in! The on route marshals were very enthusiastic and encouraging with the band at the finish topping the day off. Will be entering the 2014 event for sure!" - Neil Richards 

For more information and to sign up for next year's event, visit: www.thebicycledoctor.com.