Cycling fans at the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway, beware. Police officers charged with overseeing the race appear to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to spectators getting too close to riders. On Thursday, during the time trial event, two officers mercilessly tackled a fan, who was running just feet behind defending champion Tony Martin.
The German rider, who ended up coming in ninth place, didn’t appear to be aware of the action behind him as he concentrated on making up Mount Fløyen, the final stretch of the 31-kilometer route. Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin won the event in 44:41. Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic and Britain’s Chris Froome came in second and third.
“People who run with the cyclists are a menace,” one person said on Reddit, where a GIF of the incident has been upvoted more than 30,000 times.
“I wish the [officers] did this to every idiot fan who thinks just because they can run alongside a pro cyclist grinding slowly up a hill they should do this,” another chimed in. “Three week multi-stage races are often decided by a handful of seconds between first and second. If a fan knocks a top rider off their bike, and that rider loses 20 seconds getting back up to speed, that could mean the difference between first and second place after riding 3,500kms …”
Others, however, questioned whether the officers needed to be so rough.
“They smashed him into the innocent bystanders,” someone else commented on the Reddit thread. “Seems like an ill-conceived idea to me!”
Neither Norwegian police nor Union Cycliste Internationale has commented on the incident, but officers have reason to keep spectators safely on the sidelines — they’ve caused crashes before.
One of the most recent examples came last year at the Tour Cycliste Antenne Reunion when a spectator, reportedly angered after his son injured his thumb after two riders crashed into the barriers earlier in the race, dragged the metal barriers into the roadway, intentionally causing injuries to two additional riders.
It does not appear the runner in the red jacket in Bergen on Wednesday had any nefarious plans, but accidents involving spectators have also occurred. For example, during the 2015 Giro d’Italia, a spectator’s zoom camera lens protruding past the barriers caused a crash that broke one rider’s arm. Also that year, at the Drenthe 8 race in the Netherlands, a man unintentionally caused a crash when his extended arm interfered with a rider’s handlebars.
These and other incidents have inspired large races such as the Tour de France to issue spectator rules to remain off the road. It is unclear whether UCI publicized guidelines about spectator safety ahead of the 2017 World Championships, however.
UCI did not immediately return a request to comment.