Racist vandals scrawled anti-Islamic graffiti on part of the bike route used for Ironman UK event through Chorley.

The words — which were described as “vulgar and racist” were found on Rivington Road, written alongside messages of support for the Ironman contestants taking part in the race on Sunday, July 20. Police are now hunting for those responsible for the messages, which included claims “Muslims mutilate the innocent”.

The graffiti is believed to have been on the road during the event, one athlete said.

Ironman bosses have said they were “shocked” to see the offensive words but stressed it had nothing to do with the competition or anyone taking part.

Kevin Stewart, managing director of Ironman UK, said: “It is blatantly obvious this is a group who have chosen this as an opportunity to put their opinions forward, but it has nothing to do with Ironman or any of the athletes involved.

“It needs to be dealt with by the proper authorities.”

Thousands of people lined the route to cheer on more than 2,000 people taking part in the gruelling traithlon.

Competitors swam 2.4 miles in open water swim at Pennington Flash, before cycling 112 miles through the Lancashire countryside, where the grafitti was painted, and ran a marathon, which finished in Victoria Square.

Lancashire County Council, which manages the highways where the graffiti has been daubed, sent a contractor to remove it over the weekend.

Andrew Burrows, Lancashire County Council’s highways manager for Chorley, said: “We're disappointed that people would write such vulgar and racist comments on the road during such a popular family event.

“We have been made aware of the two offensive pieces of graffiti and have arranged for them to be removed.”

Bolton Triathlete Eddy Cook said he was “disgusted” when he saw the graffiti. He said: “There were competitors from all over the world taking part in Ironman and this does not help the sport at all.

“There is no place for this — there is no need to use such a great event to put offensive messages across.”

Lancashire County Council confirmed other, non-offensive painted messages had been found on the Ironman route.

These messages have become a source of frustration for residents in the Rivington area because some have left the roads permanently marked.

This year Ironman UK made concerted efforts to warn those writing the messages to only do so in chalk, which can be easily washed away by rain.

Mr Stewart said their efforts had been largely successful.