Rumble in the valleys over cycling event

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Hawick Cycling Club members have joined valley residents in being up in arms about an upcoming closed-road bike ride through the Borders.

The Tour O’ The Borders event –which organisers say brings in £496,000 economic benefit to the Borders – takes place on August 7, just two weeks before the Ken Laidlaw Sportive,held for the past nine years to celebrate the success of the Hawick-born cycling legend.

Last week, it was revealed that farmers along the route are angry about the forced road closure of up to seven hours at a busy time of the year, while Hawick Cycling Club say there has been no consultation with them or any cycling club so that competitions can be better spaced out.

And BarbaraHarrison of Ettrick and Yarrow Community Council said this week that residents, who although welcome cyclists and cycling events, were: “very fed up that for the third year running they will not be able to leave their homes that day.

“It is a Sunday in August when people want to be out and about doing things with their families. Although the notional closure times have been reduced, some people will still be trapped in their homes for up to 5½ hours.”

Hawick Cycling Club’s Tosh Scott said: “They originally held the event in April, which was fine, but they had bad weather one year so they changed it to two weeks prior to our event – without consultation with us – which makes no business sense for either of us. For example, our ‘A’ rider said he can’t afford to do both, as they are very expensive.”

And Tosh said that he found himself on the course at last year’s Tour O’ The Borders while on a practice ride.

He said: “I was about an hour ahead of the riders, but I was put off the course by their marshalls, who told me I was not allowed to ride on the course and if I did, I would be prosecuted.”

Hamish Smith, co-founder of the Ken Laidlaw Sportive, said: “The year the event moved to August, our entries went down from 500 to 400. And the next year they went down to 300.

“We phoned the council – who are in charge of the road closures – and the lady there said they had so many meetings with Neil Dalgleish and Tweedlove that they forgot about us.

“It does show the difference between a big commercial venture and a small local event that has been run successfully for years by cyclists, for cyclists.

As the Tour O’ The Borders attracts people with varied cycling ability, the roads require to be closed longer – which is angering farmers in the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys, who have been told they face arrest if they do not heed road closures during one of their busiest times of the year.

Tosh said: “The fact that we are able to use rolling road closures means we are able to minimise upset to residents.

“We don’t want to make a big fuss, and we are not being nasty about this. We just want what’s best for the greater good of cycling.”

Tour O’ The Borders organiser Neil Douglas said: “We’re very concerned to reduce any inconvenience or problems caused by the road closure and we have set up a working group with Ettrick and Yarrow residents to this effect, and also to find ways to spread the economic benefit.

“We’re working very hard to shorten road closure times and are also looking at alternative routes for future years. The current date was not our first choice, but was the best option in a difficult calendar.”

We hoped being two weeks away from the Hawick CC Ken Laidlaw event would not impact on it too badly ... we’re disappointed to hear it is affected – it’s an important local event.”