Professional cyclists have been left "terrified" by feral magpies during the World Championships in Wollongong, Australia.
As cyclist wind down their season, hundreds have descended down under for one of the final events of the year. However, the timing of the World Championships in New South Wales has lined up with swooping season for magpies – leaving cyclists being attacked by the birds.
Near the finish line for the road race is a sign that warns walkers and cyclists about swooping season. It states magpies defend their nests from "threats" – and cyclists are encouraged to walk through the area, something the peloton might ignore with a world title on the line.
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Remco Evenepoel, who is one of the favourites for the men's event on Sunday told CyclingNews : "A fairly large bird came very close, and it just kept following me. It was terrifying. But that’s Australia, apparently. I hope it’s the only time it happens, but I am afraid of it."
While Bauke Mollema, who has Tour de France stage wins to his name, shared a video on Instagram with a magpie swooping from behind; the bird can be seen hitting the Dutchman's helmet. Mollema was later attacked by a seagull in the time trial.
Aussie Grace Brown added: "I’ve been swooped twice already since being here. So it’s not just the international athletes that are worried about it. I get pretty scared by magpies."
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Local club riders have been known to attach spikes to the top of their helmet to scare away the birds, but with thousands spent on aerodynamic helmets, that's not an option for the peloton.
“Some guys said you have to mount some antennae on your helmet to scare them away, but that’s not so good for aerodynamics,” Stefan Kung joked after a team-mate was attacked.
While the peloton's response has been light-hearted, the threat posed by the magpies is real. In 2019, a local cyclist was killed after being swooped while riding in northern Wollongong.
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