THE date and a new venue has been announced for a large cycling event that has sparked angry clashes in the forest in previous years.
This year’s New Forest Wiggle Sportive 100 will be held on Saturday, October 11, starting from Matchams and making its way through miles of the surrounding area.
Another Wiggle event, the Spring Sportive, has been scheduled for April 12 and 13.
The event, which has attracted thousands of riders to the area, has been criticised by residents who say participants ‘race’ each other, use the forest as a toilet and put livestock and other road users in danger.
Campaigners even put tacks in the road and ripped up signs at last year’s spring Sportive, as tensions between cyclists and residents mounted.
This year the events will start at Matchams after UK Cycling Events, which runs the Sportive, was barred from using New Park, Brockenhurst – home of the New Forest Show.
New Park was used as a car park for the Wiggle rides, but show chiefs stopped that after a pony drift on neighbouring land was cancelled due to fears over cyclists scaring the horses.
Members of Fawley Parish Council also refused to let Gang Warily recreation centre host the 2014 Wiggle events in the forest.
Organisers say the event is well-managed and are promoting both events as “peaceful”, “beautiful” and “tranquil”.
The event has sold out every year for the last five years, with more than 2,000 riders to undertake routes of up to 101 miles.
On its website UK Cycling event says: “The course sweeps through the quiet leafy country roads, taking in some challenging but short hills and breath-taking views.
“With typical speed limits of 20mph and very few cars you will be able to enjoy the spectacular scenery in peace.”
New Forest Equestrian Association chairman Tony Hockley said: “We’re still in discussions with Martin Barden from UK Cycling Events to mitigate the effects on the forest.
“We’d like to see a 1,000 limit on numbers.
“However, Matchams can accommodate a couple of thousand cars, so obviously it could again be that we’re facing the events on the same scale as before.
“We’d also like riders to wear clearly identifiable numbers so that if there is an incident a rider can be identified easily.
“It should become self-policing then, as other cyclists would report them to the organisers.
“The other main thing we’d like to see is no prizes for speed so it becomes a fun ride rather than a race.
“Our next meeting is on February 6. Hopefully we can make progress.”
UK Cycling events boss Martin Barden said: “We try to give as much notice as possible to help minimise any disruption.
“We have changed our start venue, to a location which also will cause no disruption to New Forest residents.
“We are delighted to see the events are proving popular again in 2014, in particular the number of women and under 16s has increased significantly.”