Magpies Are Swooping Pro Cyclists At A World Competition In Wollongong

"It was terrifying. But that's Australia, apparently."

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Cyclists competing at the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong have been given a rude awakening after learning that the event is taking place in the middle of swooping season — and the magpies, quite frankly, give zero shits about their little cycling competition.

The event runs from September 18-25 in Wollongong, but riders were already being hassled in the days leading up to the competition while training in the area — seemingly giving a healthy advantage to Australian cyclists, who have undoubtedly grown accustomed to the devil birds over the years.

Belgian cyclist Remco Evenepoel — who came in third place at the men’s time trial on Sunday — had a run-in with the magpies while preparing for the race.

“A fairly large bird came very close and it just kept following me,” he told Cycling News. “It was terrifying. But that’s Australia, apparently. I hope it’s the only time it happens, but I am afraid of it.”

Cyclists have been urged to deck out their helmets with cable ties to scare off the nesting birds but, obviously, this isn’t particularly aerodynamic when racing.

“Some guys said you have to mount some antennae on your helmet to scare them away, but that’s not so good for aerodynamics,” Swiss cyclist Stefan Küng said.

Magpies pose a serious risk to cyclists — particularly during swooping season — with more than 1,500 incidents involving the birds across Australia this year alone, according to Magpie Alert.

Wollongong is particularly dangerous for cyclist and magpie tiffs, with one 76-year-old cyclist dying in 2019 as a result of a magpie-related incident — proving that the threat of the birds is no laughing matter.

Another bird in Sydney’s northwest was shot by a local council in 2019 after 40 people complained about the “particularly aggressive” magpie.

Swooping season — which runs from August to November — coincides with magpies’ peak breeding season, where the birds will fiercely defend their nesting territory. Cyclists are particularly at risk of swooping due to their fast-moving nature, which can be perceived as a greater threat to the birds than a person walking past.