PARIS – French police are looking for a spectator who plunged dozen of elite cyclists into a massive pile-up on the first day of the year Tour de France on the weekend.
On Saturday, German cyclist Tony Martin was crashed at high speed when he hit a cardboard sign held up by an unknown woman. Martin fell off his bike, causing a group of riders to fall around him too – leaving a jumble of bikes and cyclists behind.
Televised footage of the race showed the woman, wearing a yellow jacket, smiling and leaning towards the street while holding up a sign that read “Allez Opi-Omi” (“Come on Grandpa-Grandma”, a mixture of French and German) . . As the pack of riders approached her, the television footage shows her looking in front of the television cameras, not the cyclists.
A spokesman for the French National Gendarmerie, one of the country’s two national police forces, told NBC News on Monday that they are still looking for the woman and called her actions “careless”.
Investigators comb through the camera footage and ask witnesses to come forward with information about the incident. According to police, the woman left the scene before investigators arrived.
In the Tour de France, thousands of fans usually cheer on the riders from the sidelines as they progress through the grueling stages of the race for three weeks.
After most of the Covid-19 restrictions in France were lifted, enthusiastic fans took to the streets of quaint villages along the route on the opening day of the race, and thousands lined the streets of the Brittany countryside.
In a press release on Saturday, the National Gendarmerie said it was investigating into unintentional injuries caused by “an apparent willful breach of a duty of safety or caution”.
Race director Christian Prudhomme told Eurosport in one interview Sunday, the behavior of the woman was “unacceptable and unbearable”.
“When we get on the tour track, it’s about admiring the champions, otherwise we have nothing to do with it,” he said. “You have to be careful and not get carried away by enthusiasm. And above all, the runners are the ones who deserve television. The audience doesn’t come to see each other, that’s what they have their mirror for. “
NBC News has reached out to ASO, the company that organized the race, for a comment. There was no further comment from the Tour de France on Monday.
Tour officials warned on Sunday that fans must respect the drivers’ safety.
“Don’t risk anything to take a picture or get on TV!” said in a tweet, accompanied by a video compilation of past incidents where spectators distracted drivers or failed to watch their children or pets.
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In a strongly worded post On his Instagram page on Sunday, Tony Martin, the driver who first collided with the viewer’s sign, also urged fans to be more respectful.
“To all the people on the roadside who think they are #tourdefrance is a circus, to people who risk everything for a selfie with a 50 km / h peloton, to people who think it’s nice to show their bare bums, to drunk people who push us aside on the climbs People who think that it’s a good idea to put a sign in the street while the peloton goes by, ”he said.
“I would like to urge this people: Please respect the drivers and them #tourdefrancehe added. “Use your head or stay home! We don’t want you here.”
The Tour de France will last until July 18th.
Nancy Ing reported from Paris, Yuliya Talmazan from London.