'Idiots and scumbags' sabotage race
Upper Hutt charity event raised $10,000HANK SCHOUTEN
Forty cyclists suffered punctures after "idiots and scumbags" scattered tacks in the path of a race in Upper Hutt yesterday.
Offensive graffiti including "Death to cyclist scum" and other expletive-laden abuse was also sprayed on signs and roadside barriers up Blue Mountains Rd, Silverstream.
Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard, riding with two cyclists whose tyres were punctured, said: "The people who did this are idiots and scumbags who are undermining the reputation of Upper Hutt and Whitemans Valley."
Organisers estimated 40 of the 250 entrants in yesterday's Tour de Whitemans charity fundraising race suffered punctures - with one particularly unlucky rider picking up five tacks.
Event organiser Jon Beere, of Silverstream Lions Club, said he was very disappointed that vandals had gone out of their way to spoil it for people.
Lions committee member Mike Fisher said marshals spotted the tacks and graffiti when they checked the circuit before the event started.
They picked up many tacks but it looked as though someone spread more on the road after the cyclists went up Blue Mountains on the first of three 33km circuits.
There was no inkling of animosity regarding the event before it started.
Notices had gone out to the community before the race. About 40 marshals were posted around the course to ensure it was run safely, and cyclists were advised to obey road rules and be considerate to other road users.
A complaint has been laid with police and information that might help them find the culprit has been passed on.
Cycle enthusiast Mike Anderson said he had passed on information about a person living in the area who was well-known to riders.
"He's angry because cyclists going up the hill take up five seconds of his time a couple of times a week when he's driving home."
Cycling Advocates Network project manager Patrick Morgan said the vandalism sounded like the work of a juvenile idiot.
"It's childish. I think cycling bashing is pretty much outdated. It's pretty obsolete. It's very unusual."
Mr Morgan said he hoped the police would investigate as the actions could have proved dangerous.
"It's almost certain someone in the community knows who did this and I hope they come forward. It's potentially very dangerous when you have a group of people on bikes riding at speed. There could be consequences."
He said the incident sounded quite isolated.
Sergeant Quentin Ward said they would follow up any leads to see if they could identify those responsible. He was concerned that someone had deliberately done something that could put people's lives at risk. Cyclists had just as much right to use the roads as anyone else.
Mr Mallard had an idea about how to deal with the culprits. "If these people are caught the first thing I'd do is get them to clean off the graffiti, preferably with a toothbrush, and dress them up with bright colours so everybody can see who they are."
Fortunately it did not spoil an event that was really well run by the Silverstream Lions, the Labour MP said.
Graham Hall, of Wadestown, who rode three loops of the 33km, said it was obvious that some locals did not like cyclists.
"You'd have to think it was good for the area and the Lions. I paid $50 to enter and my wife and I have both spent money in the local supermarket."
He said he did not spot the graffiti because he was in a bunch of other cyclists and was concentrating on the wheel in front of him, but he saw lots of punctures.
But his wife Helene said she was appalled by the graffiti.
The event raised $10,000 for Te Omanga Hospice and the Lions' charitable trust.
- The Dominion Post
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