The Royal Dorset Constabulary's Normality and Innocent Entertainment Prevention Division stepped in decisively today to halt this year's Tour de Dorset. The highly prestigious Tour [Round 5 in the West Country Tour Calendar] had been allowed to take place as scheduled provided that crowds stayed away and social distancing was observed by all riders. It had reached the end of Stage 2 [the Dewlish to Corfe Mullen or so-called "King of the Mountain" stage] when armed police in riot gear stepped in, halted the race and seized all bicycles.*
* Readers are reminded that the RDC's annual sale of lost and stolen bicycles takes place at The Pound, RDC Traffic Headquarters, Loders on 12 September. Insiders say this year's will be a "big one".
A spokesperson for the force - Constable Sturmey Archer - said that though a single rider who was leading the race was correctly observing the 2 metre rule, the vast majority of riders [in the so-called peloton] were ignoring safety advice and cycling far too close to each other, thereby contravening the Memorandum of Understanding between organisers and the police and putting lives at risk by massively increasing the likelihood of CONTRIK-69 transmission. Evidence that the disease was spreading "like a virus" between competitors was clear: when stopped at the top of the notoriously punishing Lewesdon Hill [279 metres (915 ft)] many were "sweating quite heavily and some were very out of breath", the spokesperson said. Dorset Health Authority spokesperson and CONTRIK-69 expert - Hiley Konté-Jús - confirmed that both conditions were symptomatic of the disease.
Organisers say that whilst they regretted the "occasional bunching of riders described in the police report", it was not always possible to conform to the absolute letter of the understanding. "On narrow lanes and in tight corners - all of which were clearly marked with 2 metre labels borrowed from Threadbone Extra checkout surplus stock - it isn't always possible to maintain the required level of discipline for which we had hoped. In the heat of battle people sometimes forget to check behind them as well as in front and to the sides".
Race leader at the time - Dorset cycling legend - Lance Armbone professed himself deeply disappointed. "I was out there on my own, obeying the rules and suddenly there's a ruddy great police van blocking the road; I was seized, my bike was seized and I was forcibly held whilst my temperature was taken. I said to them... you've taken my temperature, you've taken my bike and you've taken my victory but you are not taking my dignity... so I left them holding my spandex pants and made for the nearest hydration station".
It is not clear if and when the race will be allowed to resume. A spokesperson for the RDC's Normality and Innocent Entertainment Prevention Division said it was impossible to say but, "left to us... probably when life returns to normal... ie. never".