The Spanish National Police said on Tuesday that they had arrested four men suspected of plotting to sabotage a stage of the Vuelta a España cycling race by pouring oil on a stretch of highway that the cyclists were due to use.
Officers detained the four on Saturday in a wooded area near the town of Suria (Lleida) in the north-east of Catalonia, just as they prepared to release 400 litres of ‘a liquid similar to motor oil’ from two drums onto the road, the police said in a statement (see police video via tweet link below).
The drums and a hose that stretched from them to the highway ‘were hidden amongst the vegetation, making it difficult to detect’, the statement added.
The third stage of the Vuelta on Monday — a 158.5-kilometre ride from Suria to Arinsal in Andorra — included that stretch of the highway.
It was won by reigning champion Remco Evenepoel of Belgium.
The four suspects are supporters of Catalan independence, according to the Catalan pro-independence activist group Alerta Solidària, which fiercely opposes the passage of the Vuelta through Catalonia, calling it ‘colonialist’.
They have been charged with membership in a criminal group, public disorder and environmental offences. The four appeared before a court on Monday in Solsana, which later released them but banned them from going within 500 metres of roads along which the cycle race was to pass as it goes through Catalonia, their lawyer Eva Pous told Catalan media.
Along with the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta is one of cycling’s prestigious Grand Tours.
This is the 78th edition of the race and ends in Madrid on 17 September after 21 stages and 3,153.8 kilometres.
Con este mecanismo pretendían sabotear la etapa de ayer de #LaVuelta23— Policía Nacional (@policia) August 29, 2023
👉🏻Dos bidones con 400 litros de líquido que pretendían arrojar en la calzada al paso del pelotón
👉🏻Cuatro personas detenidas in fraganti en #Lleida pic.twitter.com/pzEZpILBZ6
⏪ ⛰️ Aparece la montaña y los favoritos ya son protagonistas. 🤩 ¡Buena lucha de la fuga! 📽️ ¡Lo tienes todo en 1 minuto!— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) August 28, 2023
The mountains appear and the protagonists have set out their stalls. 🌟 It was a good fight from the breakaway, but was not meant to be 📽 You've got… pic.twitter.com/s7MO5KOwzd