CYCLISTS in the middle of a rural road race were thrashed with sticks by elderly men apparently furious at the harvest being disrupted.
The attackers, said to have been dressed in tweed and wearing flat caps, hit cyclists on the head as they passed, causing at least one racer to fall off.
The bizzare incident, which happened during the Tour o’ the Borders race near Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is being investigated by police.
The 74-mile race, which attracted almost 2,000 competitors, required the closure of several local roads.
It is claimed the Tesco Bank-sponsored event on Sunday may have caused delays to bringing in the harvest.
The men said to have launched the attack are believed to be aged between 70 and 80, according to witnesses. They had disappeared by the time a police motorcycle arrived on the scene.
The incident took place a few hundred meters south of the junction of the A701 and B712 Stobo road, just south of Broughton.
Competitors took to the events Facebook page to give their accounts of what happened.
One said: “Two people that looked like farmers wearing tweed jackets and flat caps – one had a dog – were hitting cyclists on their head with long sticks.”
Eddie Petrie added: “At one point on the ride, we were attacked by two local men with sticks standing in the middle of the road hitting cyclists and their bikes.
“It was a totally appaling unprovoked attack which spoiled the day. Hopefully something will be done and these two idiots will be brought to justice in some way.”
Paul Mellotte, who was a competitor at the event, said: “I came around the corner, behind the first group of cyclists and I noticed they had all slowed down.
“I could see some weaving around with other cyclists ahead and noticed two older guys around 70 to 80 years old walking on the road.
“I cycled up towards them and noticed they were both holding out big sticks I asked them what has happened and was there a problem ahead? One of them said, “You are the problem.”
“I had to stop my bike and then I pushed with my foot to get past them.”
Event Organiser, Neil Dalgleish, said he was told at least one rider had been forced off his bike and had to be taken to hospital, as was also reported on social media.
He said: “Our cycling visitors know the Borders is a place the quality of the cycling and events is second to none, so I think a truly special day was marred by some thugs, some idiots.
“Their behaviour is disgusting, and they are a disgrace to the whole of the Borders, let alone their own communities.
“We have had to make it clear that this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. It could have caused serious injuries or worse.”
In recent years, farmers have expressed concerns at not being able to move between their fields at harvest time due to cycling events.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We can confirm that we are aware of protests at the event, and we are investigating.
“So far, however, no one has told us of any injury. If someone has an injury, they should tell us so we can investigate.”
Tour o’ The Borders posted on their official Facebook page: “What happened was potentially very dangerous and the police want to prosecute those responsible, who are a disgrace to the Borders.
“This has always been an extremely friendly event and we are proud of the warm welcome the Borders gives to cyclists.”
Video footage, posted to Youtube, shows the two elderly men stop try to stop cyclists and block their path.
The clip, filmed from a GoPro by Iain Elliott, shows cyclists approach the junction which has clearly been blocked off with cones and security staff can be seen in high-visibility jackets.
The cyclists get a few hundred meters down the road before the two men appear into view. The two men can be seen standing in the middle of the road brandishing long sticks to block the riders from passing.
The farmers, can be seen crossing their sticks in the middle of the road, creating a blockade and forcing riders to slow down and stop.
The men, both wearing flat caps, one dressed in khaki and the other in black, have their arms outstretched trying to cause as much disturbance to the riders as possible.
Most of the riders go around the two men, but one brazen rider goes straight through the middle.
Eddie Petrie, who was in the first wave of riders and witnessed the incident, said: “The cyclists in front started to slow down, because something was something on the road. As I got closer I saw what I assumed were two farmers, and each had a 3ft or 4ft long stick in each hand. They were standing in the middle of the road and the cyclists were just trying to get past.
“There were between 60 to 100 cyclists in the first wave, that’s quite a lot who were trying to get past. I was speaking to someone afterwards who said one of his friends had one of the sticks put through his back wheel spokes. It could have been serious, and could have taken him off his bike.”
Eddie was staying in Crossburn Caravan Park, Peebles, for the duration of the event, and said that the rider who was thought to have been injured was also staying there. He added: “I was told that the guy who was in the accident had to stay on at the caravan park an extra three nights because he couldn’t drive home.”
Eddie also suggested that the attackers had posed as spectators as the car and motorbike leading the first wave passed. He said: “My view was that because the car and motorcycle that were in front, and I’m not the only one who thinks this, I believe that the two people must have been standing at the side of the road acting as supporters, waiting for the car and the bike to go past. They stay about 300-400m ahead, so they knew the cyclists were coming.”
A spokesman for Tesco Bank said: “We feel that the event was a success, we had over 2,000 participants and lots of people cheering the participants on.
“We are aware of the incident and that the Police are looking into it.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that we are aware of interactions between participants and members of the public at the Tour O the Borders event on Sunday, September 3.
“At this point no injuries have been reported to police, however officers are still establishing the full circumstances.
“Anyone with information is asked to contact officers at Peebles Police Station on 101.”
The National Farmers Union today declined to comment on the incident.