A woman holding a large sign bearing the words “ALLEZ OPI-OMI!” (German terms of endearment for grandparents) clipped Germany’s Tony Martin, who lost his balance and set off a chain reaction that sent cyclists sprawling across the pavement as she stepped in front of the peloton to display the sign for TV cameras. Several spectators and cyclists were injured in the crash, the first of the day. It occurred on a stretch of the stage in which there are no metal crowd-control barriers.
“We are suing this woman who behaved so badly,” Pierre-Yves Thouault, the tour’s deputy director, told Agence France-Presse. “We are doing this so that the tiny minority of people who do this don’t spoil the show for everyone.”
The woman, who fled the scene, had not been found as of Sunday and police from Landerneau, the stage’s end point, continued to investigate.
“We haven’t heard back from them yet,” Thouault told Reuters. “We are going to repeat our calls for fans to behave time and again, through the police on the side of the road and our social network. Most of the fans are peaceful but I want to stress that you come see the Tour, you don’t take selfies, you keep your kids close to you.”
The route of the 21-day race winds through urban, rural and mountainous areas, where crowd control is difficult and mostly left up to individuals who narrow the route as the peloton rides through.
“It’s a good thing to have all those fans on the side of the road but it brings extra stress, extra danger,” Rik Verbrugghehe, the sports manager for Israel-Start Up Nation sports manager, told reporters. “We saw also the first crash was because of a fan. Most of the time the fans make it pretty dangerous because they make the road narrower. But it’s part of the game, that’s what makes cycling so exciting and so beautiful.”
Martin, who said he was uninjured in the crash, used social media to urge fans to be more aware and to respect cyclists.
“To all the people next to the road who think that the #tourdefrance is a circus, to people who risk everything for a selfie with a 50 km/h fast peloton, to people who think it’s nice to show their naked butt, to drunken people who push us sideways on the climbs, to people who think that it is a good idea to hold a sign into the road while the peloton is passing. I want to ask this people forcefully: please respect the riders and the #tourdefrance!” he wrote on Instagram. “Use your head or stay home! We don’t want you here. You risk our life and our dreams for that we work so hard!”
Julian Alaphilippe won Saturday’s stage with blood dripping from a scraped knee. “I hope everyone is okay,” Alaphilippe said (via Reuters) after the 122.9-mile stage from Brest to Landerneau. “I’m calling on the fans to be careful.”
Last year’s race was delayed until August because of the pandemic and took place with fans barred from the start and finish lines of each stage. “It’s nice to see the fans back on the side of the road, but please be careful,” Alaphilippe added.
A second massive pileup occurred near the end of the stage, with riders going full speed. All told, several dozen riders were involved in the crashes, making for “a bit of a crazy stage,” Chris Froome, the four-time winner, told the Associated Press.
Geraint Thomas, the 2018 winner, called the stage “stressful. I was just concentrating on staying on my bike basically. Happy to get through it.”
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