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Aug 21, 2023


The protestors delayed the race for nearly an hour by literally gluing themselves to the race course. This weekend’s elite men’s World Championship road race had a bit of everything. Breakaways,

The protestors delayed the race for nearly an hour by literally gluing themselves to the race course.

This weekend’s elite men’s World Championship road race had a bit of everything. Breakaways, attrition, attacks, crashes, and so many corners.

It also had a climate-activism group protesting the race, forcing the peloton to stop for nearly an hour.

Five members of the group This Is Rigged reportedly chained themselves together and glued themselves to the road on the approach into Glasgow, where the race would finish, according to the BCC.

The protesters patterned themselves in order to halt the race’s convoy of support vehicles and so the cyclists could, in theory, navigate between their bodies. However, that didn't happened and instead, for fifty-five-minutes in total, the race was completely stopped.

At the time of the protest, a nine-man breakaway had put nearly eight minutes into the peloton after the opening eighty-kilometers. They were the first riders to be stopped by organizers as the race was neutralized.

During the protest, UCI President David Lappartient even exited the commissaire’s vehicle to walk through the idle bunch of racers as everyone waited for the road to be cleared of protesters.

Scottish police reported that five people were arrested for their part in the protest.

After the incident, This Is Rigged posted a statement to their social media that read in part, “We cannot continue with business as usual while our country burns and our futures are ruined. Time is of the essence and we need to act like it. The Scottish government must stand up to Westminster and oppose all new oil and gas, and implement a fair transition now.”

Additionally, the group’s spokesman Lewis Conroy told CyclingNews, “The reason why we did this is the Scottish Government has not responded to Westminster’s intention to license over 100 new oil and gas projects in the North Sea in Scotland.”

Asked about the dichotomy of protesting a bicycle race, which promotes one of the greenest forms of transportation and recreation possible, Conroy said, “The action itself was not about the cycling. We’re obviously pro-cycling but we’ve been forced to act to see that peoples’ basic necessities have been met by the Scottish government.”

Rebecca, a 28-year-old student, said in a statement posted on the group’s Instagram account, “As a trans woman I’ve been told I’m not welcome on the cycling track by the UCI, at the same time they allowing teams backed by petrochemical companies to participate shows they have no real care for the welfare of the people. I take to the track to point out this hypocrisy and take a stand for a better future.”

Scottish transportation spokesman Graham Simpson—who is a member of the Scottish Parliament representing the Scottish Conservatives party—said in regards to the protest, “It’s utterly nonsensical for a group which claims to stand for environmental protection to target an event promoting active, green travel like cycling—and raises a huge question mark about this publicity-seeking group’s true motives.”

President of the riders’ union Adam Hansen also weighed on Twitter, taking time to chastise to protestors for their actions while pointing out what he sees as some cognitive dissonance on their part.

“A message to the protesters,” his tweet read. “What you did in today’s race did the opposite to help the environment. While a bike race might not be the best thing for the environment, the impact of exposing people the thought of taking up cycling is key for the environment. Getting more people to ride bikes and means cars drive less. Also, those orange safety vest you all wear.... made from petroleum.... your glasses, shoe soles, plastic on the tips of shoe laces, buttons, debit/credit cards... yeah, made from Oil... just saying.”

While This Is Rigged’s protest was aimed at wider climate injustices and was using the platform of a major international race to try and get as many eyes on their cause as possible, bike racing itself is not necessarily an environmentally friendly sport.

Anyone who’s ever been to a major bike race and seen their convoys of dozens upon dozens of promotional and support vehicles, with helicopters whirring overhead, can tell you that a bike racing has a long way to go to get more green.

Oil companies sponsor cycling teams, and in the controversial case of British Cycling, an entire national cycling federation, and regularly engage in sportswashing. Sportswashing is when a company uses the association with and sponsorship of a sports team or event to improve their reputation. So perhaps a major international bike race is actually the prefect venue to stage a protest about big oil after all.

Michael Venutolo-Mantovani is a writer and musician based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He loves road and track cycling, likes gravel riding, and can often be found trying to avoid crashing his mountain bike.

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