THE CONTROVERSIAL Wiggle New Forest bike ride got underway this morning with hundreds of riders setting off from a Hampshire park.

The first riders taking part in the sell-out ride got underway at around 7.30am, heading off in groups of 20 in a staggered start from Matchams Leisure Park.

Daily Echo:

UK Cycling Events, the organiser of the Wiggle rides, moved the start of the event to Matchams this year, having started from the New Forest Showground site in 2013.

The event has caused controversy in the past with complaints from residents about the conduct of the riders, while last year cyclists were hit by acts of sabotage, with protesters putting tacks on the roads and signs being torn down.

This year, opponents of the event have published posters urging residents to alert the authorities if any of the entrants cause trouble.

The posters list 15 towns and villages across the Forest where critics claim incidents could occur over the weekend.

But as riders were leaving the site this year, Martin Barden, director of UK Cycling Events, was warning riders of the rules and regulations of the ride.

He told the groups before they set out: “We don’t want to see anyone cycling two, three or four abreast; do not block out the road.

“Anyone seen to be doing that will get banned from today’s event. Have a wonderful time, but do it in a responsible way.”

He added he wanted the event to go smoothly but “please play your part”.

Father and son, Dave, 45, and Matt Wilson, 25, from Southampton said they were taking part in the event for the first time.

“It’s local and it’s in the beautiful New Forest”, Matt said.

“It’s right they should take a strict stance with people; the roads aren’t closed and frankly people should be riding sensibly anyway”, Dave added.