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French Authorities Give Race Organizer 3-Months' Suspended Sentence & €65,000 Fine for Damaging Nature Reserve

Jan 2, 2023 at 3:19
by Matt Wragg  
Damage to Contamines-Montjoie nature reserve. Images provided by ASTERS.
Damage to the Contamines-Montjoie nature reserve. Image provided by ASTERS.

Words: Matt Wragg

A French court has prosecuted organisers of Verbier eBike Festival for causing damage to a nature reserve during their 2020 event, the eTour du Mont Blanc.

The CEO of the event organiser, Nicholas Hale-Wood, was sentenced to three months’ suspended prison sentence, a €1,000 criminal fine, a €15,000 civil fine and a one-year ban from organising events in France. The event organisation, Bike Freeride, was sentenced to a €1,000 criminal fine, a €50,000 civil fine and a one year ban from organising events in France.

During the 2020 Verbier eBike Festival, their marquee race, the eMTB Tour of Mont Blanc, passed through the Contamines-Montjoie nature reserve, and during this passage two peat bogs were damaged and trees permanently marked by course directions.

Although Verbier is in Switzerland, the eTour du Mont Blanc crosses the border between Switzerland and France as it traverses the mountain. The Contamines-Montjoie area is designated a nature reserve, specifically containing peat bogs that are home to the rare, carnivorous droséra flower. In two places during the race, riders left the marked trail and rode through this peat bog, damaging them and the flowers that grow there. Race markings painted on trees proved to be permanent, damaging the trees.

The court in Bonneville found the organisers guilty on all charges. The prosecutor asked for six months suspended sentence and a two year organisation ban, but the sentence handed down was a suspended sentence of three months and a single year organisation ban.

The race organisers do not dispute the facts of the damage, but are appealing the sentence as they feel it is not proportionate to the offense.

Damage to Contamines-Montjoie nature reserve. Images provided by ASTERS.
Damage to the Contamines-Montjoie nature reserve. Image provided by ASTERS.

Here is the full text of the decision translated by me from French:

Justice: A historique decision for the nature reserves of Haute Savoie.

In summer 2020, an eMTB race, the eTour du Mont Blanc, was organised in Haute Savoie with the authorisation from the prefect and traversed the national nature reserve Contamines-Montjoie.

The racers, in teams of two high-level athletes, passed through the heart of two rare and protected peat bogs, destroying the roots of a delicate carnivorous plant, the protected and emblematic: the round-leafed droséra.

The management team of the nature reserve (Aster, Conservatoire d’Espaces Naturels de Haute Savoie) discovered significant and probably irreversible damage in the area and drew up a dossier on the organiser.

At the end of the preliminary investigation, the state prosecutor decided to press charges against the event organiser and its representative.

Asters-CEN74, as managing agency for the reserve, also filed civil charges with the court, alongside a landowner whose property the race crossed without notification and where several trees were damaged with indelible paint.

The Bonneville court delivered its judgement 21 November 2022. The event organiser and their representative were sentenced with:

The legal representative:

- 3 months’ suspended prison sentence
- €15,000 damages and €1,000 criminal fine
- Banned from organising events in France for one year

The event organiser:

€50,000 damages and €1,000 criminal fine
Banned from organising events in France for one year

In terms of damages, as manager of the nature reserve, Asters-CEN74 will be compensated for damage caused to the peat bogs and protected species in the Contamines-Montjoie nature reserve.

The defendants were also ordered to compensate the landowner whose property was used by the race without his agreement.

This ruling sets an example for cases in protected natural areas with very high heritage value. It is part of Bonneville public prosecutor's office firm stance against attacks on the environment.

The message is clear: organising a sporting event in a nature reserve is possible with proper consultation and authorisation to avoid irreparable damage to nature, as was unfortunately the case in 2020.

You can see the full text in French.

Author Info:
mattwragg avatar

Member since Oct 29, 2006
754 articles

190 Comments
  • 324 34
 I know there are many race enthousiasts amongst the mountainbiking community, but after racing twice in 2012, something just fell wrong about bunching up in the woods trying to beat the clock. Yet this kind of scenery reflects what grinds my gears about turning our sport, our discipline, our way out, into something much less profound, into entertainment. While racing is not despicable in itself, let us remember that the dose makes the poison. While this seems like an examplary painful sentence, the message is clear: we desperately need to protect the few wild places we have left to enjoy biking.
  • 29 5
 Amen.
  • 150 8
 I did a "challenge" - not a race - deep in the middle of nowhere in a National Forest in Arkansas. The people who live out there have built a wonderfully secluded trail system that is well built and maintained for those who either live there or take the time to venture into the area. During this challenge, it rained for 10 hours the night before the start of the event, yet in the name of pushing through, about 200 people set out to ride 30 miles of single track that probably needed 48 hours to dry out. I was towards the back of the group, so I got to see how much damage had been done to this small community's beautiful trails and to this day still feel terrible for adding two more tires to the problem. I think it is the responsibility of event organizers to be able to weigh the pros and cons in the moment and be able to just say "this isn't the right decision to do the event."
  • 11 3
 Remy lucky USA isnt as harsh.
  • 31 17
 @i-like-toytles: who on earth downvotes this? unreal
  • 54 2
 I remember clearly how Transcascadia took people's cash, shuttled them to the top of a local fairly unused trail, sent them down it and annihilated it. It's never recovered and it's been probably 8 years. Cycling in the forest is fun but it can do a lot of serious damage. I try to remember this when I go ride in other people's back yards.
  • 10 7
 @map-guy: trolls
  • 3 1
 @i-like-toytles: I think that’s an excellent outlook, and gives an opportunity to re-think the process.

You ever hear the comedy bit by Louis CK about giving up his 1st class plane seat to army personnel? Worth a listen, as it’s pretty funny, and is true of all of us, which is why it’s funny I guess
  • 5 1
 agree. Racing pushes inovation and pushes culture, however the culture of racing is not really about looking after the trail or the environment around
  • 1 0
 @like2pedal: Which trail was it? I'm assuming somewhere in Oakridge. I don't live down that way anymore so I didn't hear anything about it.
  • 34 48
flag DoubleCrownAddict (Jan 18, 2023 at 13:19) (Below Threshold)
 @map-guy: MAGA bros whose small manipulated brains equate any green concerns with Marxist leftist woke ideology.
  • 28 0
 Natural reserve or not, I just don't like the mess some of these mass sporting events leave behind. Mass cycle races, mass running races, they turn the trail to mush and mess up the fun tech sections. Not seldom because those racers are too chicken, lock the rear brake and slide down sections where they should gracefully modulate the front brake instead. My suggestion: after every single race all the competitors help restore the place or be a diva and pay someone to do it for you (but be responsible for them doing it properly). Widened the trail? Plant stuff back. Deep ruts? Fill them up. The race organizer supplies the wheelbarrows and shovels. If all went well, this is how you were raised after all. You had your party, you help clean up, pay and fix what's broken. If you know you're going to join a riot that's going to break more than you think you can fix, reconsider whether you should really join.
  • 11 4
 @i-like-toytles: Race organizers don't like canceling day of. And when they cancel everyone expects a refund / despite all the expenses being incurred. I think it needs to become standard practice to cancel for weather AND not give out refunds.
  • 2 2
 @map-guy: Yes, exactly. Probably think they are being ironic or clever
  • 16 6
 Meanwhile, in France, 7 days a week, hunters still have the right to shoot mountain bikers, hikers, mushrooms pickers and other simple citizens. Everything is alright.
  • 8 1
 @danstonQ: I’m France you can legally hunt people?
  • 12 4
 @danstonQ: is there something wrong with that?

Just sitting here trying hard to envision a French hunter…..
Enclosed tree stand, fully heated, sitting on the removable seat from his 2CV, baguette and Pinot noir in hand, complaining about the government’s inability to lead the people, while planning a strike with his industrious friends.
Ahhhhh, stereotypes
  • 9 2
 @onawalk: hum... stereotypes? You're actually not so far from the truth Wink
  • 6 0
 @Ososmash: to cancel and not give out refunds just wouldn't work. How would you like to pay $150+ for registration just for them to cancel? Not to mention other expenses you had to pay to get to the venue, probably stay somewhere close to the venue, get food, etc. Re-scheduling would work a lot better, there would be a lot of people who wouldn't like it but in the end it makes everybody (mostly) happy.
  • 2 0
 @Ososmash: having to cancel a big event or race the day of is certainly not a great thing to do especially if people have paid to get there. It’s a really hard subject to tackle and would require reframing a lot of established practices in the culture to alleviate the issue.
  • 1 0
 Well said and I agree
  • 43 6
 As a pro event organiser, I've seen and experienced all sides of the argument. Part of the problem is when organising a significant event, you are very much in the limelight. It's all too easy to be a scapegoat of blame and hatred from anyone that has any beef against MTB (or e-bikes, or whatever). Any damage that is done, is very visible, since it all happens in one go so there is a noticeable step-change from one day to the next.

Based on the evidence of the photos here, assuming that this is the sum-total of all the damages in the event, the penalty seems a little harsh to me. Seems more of a strong political warning, to others. Yes, it indicates a level of disrespect on the part of the organiser (perhaps unintended, we just don't know) - but we have all ridden on trails that exhibit way worse damage than shown in these photos, just through day to day use (or storm damage, forestry work, etc). I'd bet the fact that this was specifically in a designated nature reserve, is the main reason for the large fine.

There's no definitive study that I am aware of, but it makes logical sense that a thousand or more "locals" tyres down a trail over a whole season, does more damage than 200 tyres down the same trail in once day (due to an event).
In fact, it's usually other compounding factors that really erode a trail (race, or no race) such as storms (water damage) and other weather-related events. But its easier to blame a race, and ban it, since that's a much easier "solution" to implement to make ourselves feel better (whilst still getting to ride these trails for ourselves and avoiding the larger issue that our own tyres are contributing to the very same problem).

On the whole though, I have concluded after 20+ years in this game that some trails are just 'politically' unsuitable to race (by that I mean environmentally, local politics, trail sharing, etc) whereas they are, in my opinion, still suitable to enjoy responsibly and sustainably on an MTB (outside of a race-specific scenario). There is a difference, there's just no getting away from it.

This was the primary motivation for our decision to retire the Trans-Savoie Enduro (in its race-format guise). The bottom line is that I'd rather continue to enjoy the experience of guiding 7 to 14 clients per week along the route all summer, than have the satisfaction of putting 80-or-so riders through in one go in a race (but at the risk of giving extra fuel to the anti-MTB lobby).
  • 11 0
 @TransSavoie: as someone with lots of experience in this field, what are your thoughts on cancelling an event or race when the weather conditions will accelerate damage? I feel like I see my local trail builders specifically ask that the locals respect the trails by staying off of them when they are wet and muddy, but all too often I see events and races override that rule and send out a ton of people out at once even if it is wet.

Obviously it is so much easier for trail builders to maintain and repair trails at a respective pace to normal local use, but to go out and destroy it all at once just for the sake of “race day” seems silly.
  • 5 3
 @TransSavoie: Thank you, some who actually said something intelligent instead of of accusing a certain user group( ie e-bikes )of being the bastards of outdoor adventures. My thoughts are that the organizers did not do their home work on the route they choose for the race and got what they deserved as harsh as it may be.

Organizers in B.C. have always given back to the trail organizations that are stewards of the areas where races are being held and worked with them. From the few races that I have attended the trails that are used for racing, are or have been upgraded to standards that can take the abuse from a weekend of racing, e-bikes or analog bikes.
  • 6 0
 @i-like-toytles: @SeanDRC: I've been on both sides of a wet and muddy race. I've decided not to race a wet, muddy disaster of a race, and had a race postponed a day for rain then get cancelled altogether. They both suck but the organizers didn't have the money to offer full refunds. All I got in both cases was a half credit towards the next year. They have already paid the insurance for the event, the permits, the rental areas for vendors, the fees to get the food vendors, the food, water, bands, emergency personnel, tents and booths and aid station snacks. Many of those things can't just be used at a later date with no fee incurred. The fact is that it's all spelled out in fine print when you sign up. You are agreeing with the terms when you buy your race entry. The race organizer can't see 6-10 months into the future when they are planning what weekend to put on a race.
  • 8 0
 I maintain a trail that is occasionally raced. I would say that the destruction can be more than a season of riding in places. Folks just ride differently against the clock. The first year it was poorly taped and racers took every available off trail shortcut and caused a lot of damage. It's a local event so most racers ride the trail regularly and weren't visibly taking the same lines normally. Better taping the following year made a big difference. Racers in the lower ranked classes were riding at speeds beyond their brake control ability that resulted in damage from repeated skidding. Ruts that form tend to get followed by a higher volume of riders as normally you'd have time to repair them before they got that deep. Still think the event is great, all proceeds go to building and maintaining dh only trails in the area. In this case the paint was particularly stupid, just use tape ffs. The penalties seem a bit harsh.
  • 4 0
 @TransSavoie: you didn't really mention that there seemed to be damage to sensitive habitat that was home to a threatened flora species. That appeared to be an important part of the decision by the officials.

Someone dropped the ball here. Either the organisers, the landowners, other officials who are supposed to regulate these events or all groups concerned.
  • 13 2
 @TransSavoie: First of all, no one cares about these races other than the organizers, the competitors and maybe their friends, families and TikTok followers. People may tolerate a few day of disturbance and accept that they'll see traces of what has gone down there. But if after a few weeks the damage is still very visible and severely affects the enjoyment of others (like having the trails widened and plowed) you loose goodwill real quick. And I'm not even taking the vulnerability of an area like here into account, just regular trails.

Second, I don't care about blaming, penalties and fines. Unless the money of the fine is actually being used to fix the damage. Then the fine isn't really a fine but could be considered a consequence. What I do care about though is fixing what's broken, learning and finding ways to prevent it from happening again. I mentioned this in my previous post and if you disagree with what I said there, I'd be glad to hear what you think is wrong about that.

As for the "logical sense" part, my logical sense works differently. Just like organisms, the soil has the ability to repair itself if you give it time. If my body receives half the cuts, stings, scrapes and bruises on a single day of what I would otherwise collect in a year, it would heavily affect my function and my ability to recover even though it usually isn't all that bad if all these are spread out over a year. Same with the trail. A good pounding on a single day will do more damage than a multiple of that spread out over the year. Plus of course, because racers like to overtake for some reason, trails widen. Which happens more if you have more people on a single trail simultaneously and especially if they like to be ahead of each other.

Yes, water does erode trails. But again, this is also because tires (when they don't rip the trail apart) compact the terrain. So they create both a gully (local lowest point or line) of which the base is less permeable for water. So instead of being absorbed by the soil it indeed runs down the trail causing damage. But the water does that because of the compacting by riders. Unlike my previous point though, I don't think this happens more because of racing than of regular trail use so I wouldn't use it as an argument against races perse. Except for riding in the wet of course. An organized event where people have paid and traveled for, people will be more likely to continue than a spontaneous ride. As for my source of my theory about compacting, I'll have to look it up. If you're subscribed to Cranked magazine (cranked.cc) it was in one of the earlier issues. But they have their own sources which I can't cite off the top of my head.

Just to be clear again, I'm not blaming anyone. Riders are just as responsible for how, when and where they ride as much as the organizers are to make sure that the trail maintains or quickly returns to the stage is was like before the event. If you all want that race, then all need to make sure it is done properly. Organizers and competitors alike. I think you are making wise decisions there though, choosing to ride multiple times with smaller groups rather than once with a very big group.
  • 3 0
 @deuceringsting: Seems like the same 4... internet says that the collective noun is an irritation of trolls.
  • 1 0
 @justanotherusername: I don't think you are are France... lol
  • 1 0
 @i-like-toytles: True, but it doesn't mean it couldn't/shouldn't be done.
  • 1 0
 You definitely suck hard on roosters @DoubleCrownAddict:
  • 3 0
 @knarf1: I don't know where you are racing but the races that have been held here leave the trails worse for us locals.
We've heard promises of trail funds etc but nothing substantial has ever happened.
  • 1 1
 @danstonQ: can you provide some examples? Here in us there are always hunting related deaths, but it’s hard to imagine a Frenchman shooting someone picking mushrooms, considering the popularity of the latter.
  • 1 3
 @Tarka: Can you provide a more relevant question please?
  • 1 1
 @like2pedal: I call BS on you. I've ridden with them and know their crew.

Don't throw a bunch of sh*t around on the internet.
  • 1 0
 @WestwardHo: you got it. One of the trails on the hwy 58 corridor. I rode the the trail just before the race, randomly. It was insanely fun, duffy loam dreamy. got friends to go up to show them the splendor a week later, no idea a race was run in the mean time. Shimano ribbons still up. must have been like 1,762 people that blew the surface off the trail and plowed numerous corners into oblivion. was completely altered. has never recovered.
  • 1 0
 @TransSavoie: get this man a beer for speaking logical, factual sense.

It's a political warning targeting the smaller groups of people rather than the larger more detrimental companies/groups.

People on bikes, having fun, yes we collectively take and can't give back enough to offset our damage to the planet but Seb was a great example last year showing we all need to change our mindset to help slow/reduce damage, it's impossible to live in a positive world but we can decrease the negative but not by slapping one of the least damaging sports with a fine.
  • 1 0
 @danstonQ: same in Italy
  • 1 0
 @like2pedal:

it’s a shame isn’t it. I’ve seen a few trails get destroyed from a “wet” enduro race. The lead up to the race is tough too. People session trails back to back that they can assume will be part of the course even though the course isn’t “released” yet. You often see allot of cheater lines before the trail is roped off. Bummer…
  • 181 48
 The only way to avoid this is to kill the problem at its roots. All e-bikers to the gulag.
  • 88 12
 clearly you have never seen the destruction caused at a cyclocross race.
  • 34 0
 @Yaan: those usually aren't located at or near vulnerable parts of national parks
  • 17 2
 @Yaan: imagine an e-cyclocross race!!!!
  • 11 4
 I think the e-bike fact is an unintentional red herring to this situation. The damage cited as the reason for the convictions is not e-bike specific and it would be disingenuous if the situation had been looked upon differently had it been a non e-bike event. Hopefully the stand they made was on the potential impacts of, and consideration needed for planning similar events, and not specifically in relation to whether the bicycle has a battery.
  • 24 0
 @Mac1987: wrong, cyclocross is destroying belgian and dutch mountains, and it's a shame Smile
  • 17 1
 @danstonQ: Dutch mountains? They must've been very effective at destroying them, because I've never seen one in my life!
  • 4 0
 @Mac1987: this joke was too subtle for you.
  • 4 0
 @danstonQ: it was a long day at the office...
  • 3 1
 It's not only an e-bike issue here. The natural preserve was dug up for biking period. I thought the judgement should've been harsher to prevent this from happening for any planned event for any races or for mass gatherings. Sorry, but this is not just an e-bike problem, it's about people not respecting the laws and the use of natural habitat.
  • 98 2
 even if the race and course was allowed, marking the trail by spraying trees is just stupid and should be fined anyway.
  • 10 0
 I guess ribbon/caution tape is too expensive.
  • 25 0
 There is biodegradable, temporary spray paint. It'll be gone in a few weeks. They were stupid for using the wrong paint. But still, there are better ways to mark a course.
  • 1 0
 @jrocksdh: the AliExpress shipment probably hadn't been delivered yet
  • 2 3
 @kcy4130: indeed, and the ONF (french National Forests Office) uses sprays as well... without mentioning their excessive authority.
  • 6 0
 just spray over the arrows with brown paint!
  • 1 0
 @rookie100: well they do make camo paint too...
  • 2 0
 @jrocksdh: Sweet! I'm pretty sure you can buy peat online too. Get some peat of alibaba and slap it down. Problem solved.
  • 2 0
 What I find a lot more stupid/unbelieveable is that they apparently routed the race course over privately owned land without asking for permission first. Such a display of ignorance and lack of common sense rightfully deserves a fine.
  • 80 1
 How did this carnivorous flower not eat the guys on eBikes? I happen to know that carnivorous flowers can swallow a mustached plumber while he is go-karting or trying to save a princess(I've seen it happen), so why would they allow their habitat to be destroyed by middle-aged guys on motorized bicycles.
  • 8 0
 As a botanist I've been working on growth hormone for these (and other non-endangered) vegetation to be able to eat humans but - the process is just too slow. Still working on it. That being said - Drosera is just a sundew species and many carnivorous species aren't endangered, its just some of them and depends on where you go - so hey, you can probably just load them up in a cannon & shoot 'em off in front of live TV / online cameras...no one will care or fine you.
  • 1 0
 Can you imagine how dangerous eBikes must be?!
  • 1 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: You know which human its gonna eat first, right?
  • 4 0
 @bocomtb: Yep: no one, as it was imaginary but yeah, Im not workin on anything like that. Humans could def use a dose of being hunted tho, brings humility
  • 5 0
 Well the guys on ebikes obviously stayed to the opposite side of the trail and avoided the bananas.
  • 3 4
 @Mtn-Goat-13: I hear they teach being hunted down in US schools. Good on you guys, much humility awaits!
  • 3 0
 @BenPea: Nice jab but - low hanging fruit a a shining beacon of humility (since you mention it). Surely you can do better than that, though there's plenty of truth you speak. There's also open horror in Syria, but I'm sure that's the US's fault too. And I'm sure France is a total paradise w/ zero issues...congratulations on your bliss.

I wish it wasn't the case but people like you making BS comments like this 1) has zero to do w/ bikes 2) zero to do w/ the topic in this article, 3) has zero productive or positive value and 4) is just more anonymous trolling that makes the internet suck when I'll bet that if we met while riding, we'd prob get along just fine. PB comments and the internet don't have to suck but comments like yours are what makes it open sewage. Congratulations on your behind-the-screen warrior status.
  • 2 1
 @Mtn-Goat-13: Couldn't resist. Apologies. It's not BS though, just off topic. Also, welcome to PB, random tangents/ribbing have been par for the course here for years and years. I invite you to explore the millions of words typed about the French (we suck at war, ha ha) on here over the last couple of decades. I have also felt triggered on occasion. It sucks huh?
  • 1 0
 @BenPea: Ok cool - thanks. And I know PB's rowdy, but most of us here are upset that gun culture rules this way and I personally cannot stand it...its not 1778 any more & its a joke to think anyone in the US can either 1) defend themselves from a "tyrannical government" or 2) form a "well regulated" militia - none of that should protect lunatics (or most of us) owning guns.

I'm guilty of being off topic & sniping but I try to keep it bikes here. I'm not a French basher and though I've not been yet, I generally think of French as pretty cool: such a vast history vs. the US and the horrors that go well beyond gun culture here (killing off the native Americans then dissing them 500 years), slavery, and a lonnnnng list of wrongs). Anyway - bikes, bikes, bikes. Lets bond on our passions about it I say.
  • 1 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: amen brother
  • 59 3
 Rant. I see often how people justify, it's only a little bit of damage here, a little damage there. Everyone and their freedom is allowed to damage just a little bit. Multiplied by 8 billion people. Remy Metailler recently caught slack for riding an illegal line on cryptobiotic soil. Plastered on social media, the line goes viral and just "a little bit here" turns into a 100 people riding the line next week, then 1000 next season. Not sure when the term environmentalist became so inflammatory. If you like riding in natural places, you are an environmentalist. Meanwhile the search for natural areas with no-one else around is tightening. Coupled with a little more damage here and there and you'll realize we are lucky to be riding anywhere at all, and we are extremely entitled. MTB trails invite so many more people, local trails become running and dog walker trials and eventually dirtbikes and quad trails. It's a slippery slope and the more articles like this, and older I get, I realize that trails are a problem, contrary to every desire I have to build them.
  • 11 1
 But mountain bikers are stupid so they will rail against their interests ad nauseum. If you think a dirtbike and quad are equivalent with a bike you are actively ignoring numerous environmental impact studies. Really, the issue is that sustainable trail building is not advocated for strongly enough.
  • 6 0
 @kokofosho @map-guy; well said. I've been working on minimum impacts for a long time now (any impact type) and I'm still blown away that most of this awesome stuff (and cumulative impacts) are rarely considered - sometimes, but rarely. We all think we're enviro's just by being outside but its not the case. "Sustainable" has been a joke of a term in the conservation realm for nearly 20 yrs now because its so vague - it can mean good & well done but its usually just a selling point / PR phrase - and is usually just means less erosion (which is great) and ease of maintenance (also great) but when the "sustainable" trail goes through a nature preserve, rare species - even awesome examples of common / high quality stuff - streams, bogs, and key denning sites (whatever) - especially when that can be avoided, I don't see how trails then get "sustainable" status.
  • 3 0
 Trails are not the problem per se. It is the type of riders that go down them that's the problem. Build a hard trail that requires skill and not only are fewer going to go down it but they are less likely to skid, braid etc.. (in theory). Build an easier trail that more can go down especially those with limited skills and you are going to get major impact. Look at Fromme for example.....hardly anyone goes down Grannies or Crippler any more and they look unused but the popular trails, all flow (no surprise) are in need of constant maintenance.
  • 2 6
flag rookie100 (Jan 18, 2023 at 23:37) (Below Threshold)
 basically everyone who mountain bikes should stop. And start hiking on foot. And the world would be vastly better.
  • 1 0
 @rookie100: whoosh...
  • 2 1
 @map-guy: doosh...
  • 5 0
 It surprises me how many people mountain bike but profess zero love for nature otherwise, as we need it for our recreation. Near to me there are ancient oak woodlands which have soils that take around 10,000 years to form according to the local ranger. When he has informed mountain bikers of this and asked them instead to please build trails in the adjacent, and bigger, pine forest they told him they did not care and pedalled off. An area in the same woodland with endangered birds nesting has had similar responses.
  • 52 6
 This arrow's job is horrible. But a hunter killing a hiker or a biker in France usually just gets a suspended sentence.
  • 1 0
 the natural extension of hunting more and more dangerous game
  • 2 7
flag ceecee (Jan 18, 2023 at 10:07) (Below Threshold)
 @kokofosho: Mar-a-Lago turkey shoot
  • 32 0
 All E-bike comments aside, it just sounds like shitty planning. So yeah, they probably got what they deserved. not working with local forest managers and not getting permission to use someones private property... That tracks.
  • 31 4
 Gotta say as a 30 year rider, but a 30-yr ecologist professionally, I see a lot of entirely avoidable, unnecessary damage from trails (and riders) to natural resources. These don't have to be “listed” (by state / fed / provincial agencies) to be important, critcal, rare, fragile, conservation-worthy, highly valuable or impacted. Most of what is legally considered (like T&E species, bogs, nature preserves) is barely just the tip of the iceberg, and even then you can typically get permits to destroy them in your “susatainable” trail system. That being said, MTB / hiking trails are the least impact among developments compared to roads, housing, urban sprawl, etc.

99% of riders don’t want to damage anything and they mean well so I am more perplexed that there's still no top-down process for agencies & organizations, public/private funders, trail building communities (etc). The process still ignores 99% of these wild, awesome natural resources and it mostly abides by the bare minimum "regulatory" requirements (established by transient politicians). Most of those resources, though often key / critical featueres, are often decaces out of date anyway in terms of actual conservation laws - and their protection varies by agency, department or by state / province (etc). IE - There’s no coherent process to consider natural resources across the board in trails - and thats a lame situation.

But to put it in a positive light, trails go directly thru and use up “natural capital” - cool natural opportunities, amenities, centerpieces, features and wild living things that can often be easily be incorporated into trails, and I know this because I’ve been doing this three decades (for all kinds of impacts). There is no zero-impact trail or development, but with even just a few simple stock guidelines and ideas, massive damage can be prevented regardless of the ecoystem type (ie, desert, forest, woodland, etc).

Instead - tons of resources get mashed, bashed and left behind as unknown casualties just because there's not top-down system (yet!) in the trail planning / building community to incorporate them (except for features to ride on). There are some great exceptions to this, and every system I have been involved with goes above & beyond the bureaucratic minimum, because its easy to do - it just takes a little extra time & forethought.

That being said - this seems like a super harsh penalty, damn!
  • 5 7
 the thing that makes mountain biking good is that there is no top down structure. anyone can build there own stuff. just takes hardwork and creativity. doesnt matter who you are or groups you belong to
  • 6 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13
Humble serious question to a professional ecologist: the tyre marks in the mud in the image in this article, does that kind of ”abuse” cause any damage at all to a nature reserve? Wont that spot just be overgrown by grass next year? I understand that it looks a bit messy right now but does any trees or plants actually take permanent damage of a bike race like this, and if so, how? (Im not saying it doesnt, I just fail to understand how, and want to learn)
  • 7 0
 @Jolinwood: I'm not the professional, and I'd be very curious to see what MtnGoat has to say as well, he's welcome to correct or add on to my statements.

In my experience and knowledge (Bachelor's in Ecology): Yes, that abuse causes significant damage, though the lasting impact depends on what was there in the picture before it was ridden over. That image does not display one of the peat bogs, it displays a depression in the ground where water collects (looks like it was a trail prior to this race). Riding through saturated soil creates muddy conditions, and disturbed ground like this could take 1-5 years of zero further disturbance to return to form. The damage is not "permanent" per se but each successive biker/hiker adds time or even resets the recovery process (depending on scale). If all that was there was grass, it'd be on the lower end of that time range.

What's extra problematic in that specific image: you can see a lot of people going to the side of the mud puddle given the bare roots on the left and right side. People (bikers, hikers, etc.) tend to avoid puddles, and therefore usually go around. In going around, they often damage or destroy whatever was on the side, creating more bare soil in the process. Repeated enough times (doesn't take much) and over a couple years, and the puddle will capture that bare soil as it gets weighed down. Over time, this widens the puddle, and widens the trail - that's damaging. I've had local hiking trails that have tripled in width due to expanding puddles over the past 10 years. That's why even on non-groomed trails, good drainage is important.
  • 4 0
 @Jolinwood: Its not possible to answer yr question exactly because soils vary pending on geology, elevation, aspect (direction facing), steepness & depth to bedrock. land use history, pH, moisture, habitat type (and other factors. So in a very grassy area & with little / moderate use - probably heals up quick. Over a hi elevation acidic rock and thin soils - maybe years.

I wanna def say I love riding & ride guilt free but I also am intimately aware of where I am: habitat types, geology, plants - but theres no way to know what ill-thought impacts may have already happened most of the time unless I was on foot & did a serious analysis, which I rarely do unless I see some serious problem - but even then, trail clubs / builders are often great about addressing these of approached positively vs bombing them w/ attitude (even if Im upset). I just think its better to consider as many of these parameters ahead of time vs later
  • 2 0
 @sarcosphaera: very well said Id say. The impacts are ultimately short term though pending sote conditions, they could linger longer in some areas (cryptogrammic / lichen coverage that takes 100s of years to form) - it all varies based on each site. I think you covered this well on this & the widening issue (esp problematic w/ singletrack). On log roads that were bulldozed in & Im balling on subsoils 4-10 feet deep, widening is less a serious consideration for me since its already such an artificial surface… but even then I usually just blast thru mud/puddles on habit & to set example
  • 5 0
 @Jolinwood: in my part of the world (PNW), peat bogs accumulate peat at a rate of about 1" per 100 years. (This is compacted peat measurements.) S
The recovery of bogs does take much longer than normal upland forest floor. Also in my part of the world, the upland forest floor accumulates about 1" of material a year through leaf litter decomposition. The "leaf litter" is mostly made up of conifer needles, twigs, branches, etc (not just leaves). So long story short is there is something to putting mtb trails in the correct location and planning races around sustainable trails.
  • 4 0
 @JDFF: in my area, southern Blue Ridge of the Appalachian‘s, East Coast North America, most peas dogs have already been lost and their original versions were never all that large to begin with but the ones we have, because they are so small Arnel “critically imperiled“ as listed by state and federal agencies like fish and wildlife, and natural heritage programs

I’m not totally sure but I think in Europe there can also be sloping peat bogs, especially if the terrain is not all that steep - but these may technically be seeps or poor fens. I have heard it said repeatedly that Fort William is mostly peat bogs & gravel has to be repeatedly brought in but that might just be vernacular/local lingo for what are actually seeps & not true peat bogs…
  • 4 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: yep, totally agree with all that. I have encountered sloping peat bogs in my area too. Rare, but happens. Our peat is derived from sphagnum moss, so areas of side hill seaps that have been relatively undisturbed can accumilate peat. (Our last ice age for my part of the pnw was about 10,000 y.a. so a relatively short time span for accumulation compared to other places in the world.

It's interesting because in places like Fort William, peat bogs are a dime a dozen and so common that they aren't perceived as important to protect, but in areas where they are far and few between they become a bigger deal for protection.

Fun Fact: the PNW also has a carnivorous plant found in bogs. It's a sun dew. Super tiny and looks almost like a venus fly trap. It eats insects by absorbing them.
  • 3 0
 @JDFF: I hear ya man -and wow, a fellow eco-nerd here...are you in the biz? We still have some sloping peat-seeps in our southern Blue Ridge high elevations (of which I'm 1 air mile from the highest @ Mt Mitchell - the tallest peaks / range east of the Rockies). Sounds like you may know that your western & our eastern forests were once the same vast expanse of mega-forest that are all "arcto-tertiary relicts" from geologic time and the last ice age, that then were bisected by the Great Plains that divided that ancient forest into eastern & western halves & allowed for the speciation in each area that makes our areas actually quite similar botanically. That is, I can ID tons of stuff botanically in PNW that we have here in the Appalachians (esp the southern temp-rainforest range) - so that's super cool.

Our Blue Ridge peat is all mineral seeps vs. being true bogs (high elevation) but the true bogs w/ Sphagnum in lower elevations are just too small where they are left - having been 99% nuked for cows, taters and bog-haters (a true loss that most people have no memory or knowledge of now). We also have sundews (2 species), bladderworts & pitcher plants that all live / thrive on that peat like yours - and like you say, not as big a deal where peat bogs dominate the landscape like Ft William, but where they are miniscule - probably less than 1 / 1,000,000th (or less) of the total landforms - they are among the rarest & most imperiled habitats. So naturally - moto & ATV thugs love them... they have no clue what they're ripping apart, they just need raw mud & a cold bud.
  • 4 0
 @JDFF: Additional Fun Fact: our PNW sundew is Drosera rotundifolia, which is the same species as what's in the article above! It's got a pretty wide range, further backing up MtnGoat's point about botanical similarities.
  • 2 0
 @sarcosphaera: almost forgot we also have the false asphodel, which is a second pnw carnivorous bog plant. This "carnivorous" bit being a relatively new discovery. I'm sure it occurs in other locations too???
www.npr.org/2021/08/09/1026091196/this-sweet-white-flower-is-actually-a-sneaky-carnivore-scientists-discovered
  • 1 0
 @JDFF: Woah, that's a sick plant! I hadn't heard of it before. Apparently it's PNW only. I don't think I have a ton of bogs near me but I'll be on the lookout for sure.
  • 3 0
 @sarcosphaera @JDFF - There are east coast Asphodels too - super rare tho, and I'm not a PNW botanist so but my regional keys (2022) show 4 genera and 30 species across N. America - prob is, they look very similar (even to botanists) and you'd only have a subset of these in any given area so w/ just the common names - it gets confusing. Even w/ the Sci names - confusing.

Also se. Asia is another of the "arcto-tertiary" temperate forest relicts that used to literally be part of the same mass-scalle PNW & east coast (N. America) forest maybe 250-300m years ago and all these plants had speciated by then, then again after the continents split apart and the Great Plains split PNW and east coast forests (then the continent rotated 90 degress to the east). Plants be ancient MF's.
  • 3 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: Thanks for replying, everyoneSmile
  • 2 0
 @Jolinwood: yeah, ridiculously outside the scope of mtb for a bit!
  • 2 0
 @sarcosphaera: looks like you are in Western WA, there are bogs around in that area, especially on outskirts (areas that haven't yet been developed). Glad you have an eye for the natural world!
  • 3 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13: I am "in the biz". I do a ecological delineation for forestry. I'm in the regulatory side of things. Ecology, biology, geology, hydrology all play into my work. But have also been an avid mtber, racer, trailbuilder since late 1990's. It's generally pretty interesting to be out recreating, but also be aware of the natural world on a detailed level. Definitely helps with trailbuilding.
  • 3 0
 @JDFF: @JDFF: well, that is pretty awesome and while Im partly envious of PNW, western NC aint too bad. I run a small, environmental firm (ecological inventory / conservation & minimum impact planning, and mgmt / restoration) - heavy on the bike trails consulting lately (hence my bitching!) and being a botanist/wildlife ecologist (etc) def helps w/ keeping impacts small vs the normal gouging I see often. Also allows me to bike almost 200 days a year, and I often take my bike on inventories if terrain allows… I would say we are pretty lucky in this realm: I fully expect to die out in the field, somewhere looking at some rare, orchid or bird… And that’s perfectly fine with me
  • 2 0
 @Mtn-Goat-13 @JDFF Have to say, jealous of both of your positions and experience. Hope to be at that point someday!
  • 2 1
 @sarcosphaera: My bad - somehow missed this last month but its this simple: just keep a vision of what you want, do things to make that happen and bam - it'll happen. Promise ya. Not easy, but you can do anything you imagine.
  • 17 0
 Why do you need two arrows pointing straight, 20ft apart, on a straight trail with no forks and a cliff on one side. Where did they think people were going to go? And why spray paint on trees? It's like a 10 year old was put in charge of marking the course. Not enough fine IMO.
  • 15 1
 Another bad advertising for MTB in the Chamonix valley...In the summer, the trails here are horribly crowded, full of grumpy hikers who don't want to have a MTBiker in their way. With the exponential growth of E-MTB, let's just say that we don't have a bright future...
  • 20 4
 *insert Ebike comment
  • 19 4
 Looks very motorsport to me.
  • 12 1
 If you're enough of a dumbass to spray paint course markers on trees in somebody else's country you certainly shouldn't get to appeal the decision when they hand your ass to you.
  • 18 5
 This should be the international precedent for all ebike races
  • 12 0
 Just at a glance, I'm surprised someone thought it would pass to spray-paint big pink arrows on trees in a nature reserve...
  • 12 1
 The courts got right to the point and nipped this problem in the bud.
  • 24 14
 Another reason why bicycles shouldn't have motors
  • 5 2
 Realistically I think the wheels were the problem..... although I cannot imagine the level of outrage the day someone unveils a hover-bike
  • 7 0
 They have received this fine because they didn't ask for permission !!! you cn't organize a race without all land manager aligned with you !
  • 5 1
 I think this sentence is fair, could have been more in my opinion. Trail access issues every where are real. Situations like this do just as much damage to community relations as they do to the trail/environment and both are difficult to recover from. It's in everyone's best interest to be a good steward to the land and the sport.
  • 4 1
 That mud damage could be caused my any bike and any pedestrian.So bike race or trail running that damage would have happened. The organizer should have had a trail repair strategy in their race plan.
  • 6 4
 E bikers don't care about destroying tracks. They only care about smiles per mile. They are an embarrassment to our sport. The battery's are extremely bad for the human race and our planet. Pushys are giving away free e,mtb magazines with any purchase at the moment, i threw mine straight into the bin.
  • 2 0
 It would have been helpful to know more about the circumstances and the why the organisers were prosecuted. They seem to have applied for, and obtained, the proper authorizations from the Haute-Savoie prefectorate. We can only assume that either (or both), they did not respect the route they had planned and got approval for, or did not properly clean and repair after the race (erase markings, remove signage, repair trail damage).
An let's be clear here : this is not a case of MTBikers or e-MTBikers against the rest of the world. There are other famous races that go through the Contamines Réserve Naturelle (MB Race, UTMB). Just poor event management.
  • 2 0
 There is a longer feature to follow...
  • 6 1
 needs stiffer penalties if you ask me. then people will show more respect
  • 3 2
 They will be sticking a 30,000lb feller buncher through next year to thin the trees and make a mess of the place. At one of the locals, they've banned bikes and horses from an area to protect the wildlife, but its still fine to let your dog and children run through. The mind boggles to the logic behind it.
  • 8 3
 Boomer scooters are a scourge
  • 2 0
 Who was the idiot that authorized an ebike race through a nature reserve? Why is he/she not somewhat responsible? Arizona and Colorado trail forces riders to avoid wilderness areas by riding down the hiway
  • 1 0
 Here’s a recent podcast on impacts of various types of trails in Alberta Canada. It gets a little dirty at times but you can fast forward pass that stuff. Great podcast overall for anyone in to wild ecosystems, habitats, and plants

podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/in-defense-of-plants-podcast/id1245995247?i=1000591828052
  • 2 0
 not nice! here the guilty are touchable and too weak to defend themselves... chemical companies that ruin man and nature continue without shame. it is not everyone is equal before the law. what a joke .
  • 2 1
 The peat-bog damage is minimal (considering the up- and down-stream extents of the habitats), but painting trees like that is just F*****g stupid and unnecessary. Get some printed/laminated placards and staple them in day before, also, maybe post-and-tape the limits of the trail through the bogs. $100 max investment and forethought to avoid 67k euro fine. Yeesh.
  • 3 0
 I wonder if they are as hard on the industry in that area, as they are these individuals, with respect to "damaging nature".
  • 4 1
 This validates the value and critical importance of establishing (more) nature reserves
  • 5 2
 oh god of course this is because they are ebikers and not regular bikers. Riding in wet is bad everywhere.
  • 5 1
 How come a dirt bike race has been organized in such a place?
  • 1 1
 I do understand both sides. Anyhow the fine is too harsh...my biggest problem here is, that they didn´t build new trails, right? They used hiking trails instead. So here is the point...who built them and who maintains them? they should get fined too.
  • 1 0
 Thats it. I've had enough. Ban E-Bikes everywhere eh. Its two different sports E-Bike equals E-Moto. No more of this acoustic bike BS. No more of this Analog bike BS. You are riding a moto.
  • 4 3
 Actually kind of surprised they didn't go over all the details BEFORE the race to maybe prevent this...unless they went OUTSIDE the prescribed area?
  • 3 2
 they rode in the wet. not rocket science
  • 2 0
 The private land part of it feels like they didn't do anything before the race.
  • 7 4
 It's official: eBiking is a crime.
  • 2 0
 I'm very happy about this news, honestly. we should be able to read news like this more regularly.
  • 2 0
 That dude runs the Freeride World Tour so he should really know about the laws concerning protected mountains.
  • 5 6
 Perspective needed big time. Chalk markings on trees is 'damage'? 5 or 6 pathetic tyre ruts in soggy ground is 'damage'?

Corporations are obliterating entire mountain sides, flattening thousands of acres of trees and polluting or blocking off water courses and it's all good so long as someone's making profit. Hunters are shooting the shit out of all kinds of creatures including occasional dogs and mountain bikers and then lose the plot over some bikes passing through the forest on principal. (experience from Euro-side) There's the need to control deer populations etc okay, but being real, a lot of hunting is 'sport' i.e. for fun and involves, you know... directly putting holes in the animals. Completely laughable they turn around from smoking an innocent creature and then point the finger at a mountain biker as a destroyer of nature.

IMO the bad look for biking isn't helped by a few highly hypocritical MTBers who are too lazy and/or wouldn't want to get caught with a shovel and are happy to condemn those that do, but are still super stoked to ride illegal trails. Although it's heavily dependant on where in the world you are from, there are riders smashing out the laps, no questions asked RE legitimacy, then getting back to their computer to comment how no one should ever build without permission.

On the scheme of things, mountain bikes and mountain bike trails are a microscopic problem facing wild areas. In fact is the impact of MTB not a hugely net positive effect on forest areas because it keeps people connected and interested in nature through their sport?
  • 2 0
 Slippery slope: next will be billboards and asphalt covered trails.
  • 1 0
 I agree with your opinion on perspective, but that obviously doesn't excuse the poor planning, lack of common sense and outright negligence on the part of the organizers. They got what they deserve. Just because there's worse crimes against nature doesn't mean this should be tolerated.
  • 1 0
 It might look strange from normal country perspective, but this is no surprising. France has always been do it hidden and illegally if you dont want troubles
  • 3 1
 Those signs that say "no motorized vehicles" make more sense with each passing day.
  • 1 0
 All of that was a result of poor planning and a complete lack of common sense on the part of the organizer. The fine they got is well justified.
  • 2 0
 Solution : We need more fat bikes. Assisted or not Smile
  • 3 0
 Loamers, beware.
  • 3 0
 French line, jail!
  • 1 0
 F'n funny
  • 4 4
 this is why EEEEEEE bikes suck wind. Downvote your EEE selves asap real talk is here. Maybe Outside can change the name to PeeeeeeBike
  • 1 0
 simply no need to spray paint trees. We all know how to use trailforks. Learn the route before raceday.
  • 1 0
 Spraying a trail fork ie two arrows is worse.
  • 1 0
 @kingbike2: haha. i think we both know what I was referring to.
  • 1 0
 Came here for the organic popcorn and founds me a food fight at the kids table.
  • 3 0
 Enfin
  • 2 1
 I hope those aren't the only two photos used as evidence... This sounds like wealthy nimbyism at its finest.
  • 4 3
 SEE - that's what you get for organizing an eBike-race!
  • 3 3
 Mountain bikers not being environmentally conscious is really bad for the sport.
  • 5 4
 It wasn't mountainbikers
  • 1 0
 This is what happens when people take french lines..
  • 1 0
 Holy precedent, batman!
  • 1 0
 Bad math in the title.
  • 4 5
 imagine working your way up as a cop and finally make to a detective position only to investigate crimes against peat bogs
  • 2 0
 Bicycle-related crimes in France are considered extra devious
  • 6 9
 Some plantation sticks had a mark on them and a 3rd growth Forest bit of grass was damaged? Absolutely insane courts.
This from the country that nukes atolls non stop and still burns forests for power.
  • 2 3
 now the deer have a path to walk. I'm sure they're pissed.
  • 1 1
 Deer avoid defined trails because of ambushes from wolves.
  • 2 4
 Poetry in motion
  • 24 27
 Get recked eebers
  • 1 4
 Pave the rainforest
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