by Claire Allison

Bad behaviour by a small group of cyclists has forced organisers of the annual Pass to Pub mountain bike race to completely redesign the course.

The event, to be held on March 14, has for years had cyclists travel mostly over farmland between Burkes Pass and Albury, but as two landowners have withdrawn access for this year’s event because of past rider behaviour the race will now start and finish in Albury.

Race organiser Chris Thomas said he was very disappointed, and riders needed to remember it was a privilege, not a right, to be able to travel over private property.

The landowners involved had supported the event for 30 years.

“They, and all the other farmers, have been strong supporters of the race, but after some indefensible rider behaviour by a small group at the 2020 Pass to Pub, they have withdrawn access.

“In any of these events, you always have to treat whoever the landowner is with the utmost respect, and that hasn’t happened on this occasion.”

Mr Thomas said he was not made aware of the incident until late last year, so did not know who the riders were, but understood they had been abusive towards a landowner.

If he had been made aware of the incident at the time, he would have carried out an investigation, and the riders involved could possibly have been banned from the event and other event organisers notified, Mr Thomas said.

And while the withdrawing of access had created a predicament, it also offered an opportunity for the course to be redesigned to take in new country, and allow for riders to start and finish at the same spot, which made logistics easier for many.

“There are quite a lot of advantages to having it start and finish at the same spot. One of the reasons is that people have to get back to their vehicles.”

This year’s event will now offer riders two new routes on new terrain through back-country farms, with four new properties involved.

“It will be a course that’s achievable, but challenging, and it’s safe and manageable.”

Mr Thomas said he had also taken the opportunity to push the event back a couple of weeks to avoid clashes with the annual Hadlow to Harbour, the Oamaru duathlon and, in some years, the Motatapu in Wanaka.