Huge twist following careless Tour de France spectator's arrest

·3-min read
Charges against the fan who carelessly held a sign in front of the peleton during the Tour de France, causing a massive pile-up, have been dropped. Pictures: Eurosport
Charges against the fan who carelessly held a sign in front of the peleton during the Tour de France, causing a massive pile-up, have been dropped. Pictures: Eurosport

Tour de France organisers have dropped legal action against a sign-wielding spectator who caused what some described as the “worst crash ever” seen in the race.

Organisers made the decision in a bid to defuse the situation after the careless spectator was placed in custody, race spokesperson Fabrice Tiano said on Thursday.

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Gendarmes in Brittany arrested her on Wednesday, four days after the accident in the first stage of the race brought down dozens of riders and forced German rider Jasha Sutterlin to abandon the tour.

The spectator brandished a large cardboard sign while leaning into the path of oncoming riders.

She appeared to be looking in the other direction, apparently at a camera, and not at the approaching peloton.

The woman, not publicly identified, was arrested in the Finistere region by gendarmes who tracked her down based on accounts from people questioned this week.

Despite the Tour’s decision, local prosecutors will decide whether or not to file charges.

Tour organisers announced after the crash on the stage from Brest to Landerneau that they would start legal proceedings against the fan, who disappeared from the crash scene.

She leaned into the path of veteran rider Tony Martin, whose fall had a domino effect on the peloton.

The Gendarmerie in Landerneau, east of Brest, put out a call for witnesses shortly after the pileup.

Fans gathering on the sides of roads and in villages as riders pass by is part of the tradition and charm of the Tour.

The woman’s sign read “Allez Opi-Omi,” a mix of French and German-language terms of endearment for grandparents — “Go Grandpa-Grandma.”

Charges against careless Tour de France fan dropped

Brest prosecutor Camille Miansoni told a press conference on Thursday that the suspect was questioned alongside her partner, who had been with her during the stage.

Miansoni said she wanted to send an “affectionate message” to her grandparents, adding that the suspect’s grandmother has German origins.

“The suspect has expressed her feelings of shame and fear about the consequences of her act,” Miansoni said.

“She said she is worried about the media attention for what she has called her ‘stupidity’.

At the press conference, Col. Nicolas Duvinage urged everyone to calm down on social networks after several messages calling for violence were posted on the local gendarmerie Facebook page.

Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands and Team Alpecin-Fenix holds the yellow jersey after stage six of the Tour de France. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Mathieu Van Der Poel of The Netherlands and Team Alpecin-Fenix holds the yellow jersey after stage six of the Tour de France. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

“The person being accused also has personal weaknesses and it is therefore advisable not to proceed to a media lynching or on social networks,” he said.

Police also called for the spectator not to be lynched on social networks.

“We are withdrawing our complaint. This story has been blown out of proportion but we wish to remind everyone of the safety rules on the race,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told Reuters.

“If you come to the Tour, you hold your kid, you hold your pet and don’t cross the road carelessly. And above all, you respect the riders - they’re the ones worthy of live TV.”

On Tuesday, Tour de France riders brought the race to a halt for about a minute one kilometre into its fourth stage in a silent protest for safer racing conditions after numerous crashes.

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