Tour de France organisers have withdrawn their complaint against a woman facing prison for causing one of the worst accidents in the cycling competition’s history – saying ‘everyone must calm down’.
In impassioned comments on Thursday, race director Christian Prudhomme expressed concern for the so far unidentified 30-year-old Frenchwoman who is currently in police custody.
She is accused of causing a peloton collapse in Brittany on Saturday, and then fleeing the scene, leaving cyclists seriously wounded.
After being taken into police custody on Wednesday, following four days on the run, the woman is known to have asked to see a doctor, said an investigating source.
‘This has taken on crazy proportions,’ said Mr Prudhomme. ‘We want to calm things down, and above all to get the message across to the public.’
He said that basic safety should not preclude people having a good time, explaining: ‘It is a matter of reiterating the precautionary measures on the Tour route.
‘When you come to the roads of the Tour de France, it’s for the party, it’s for the enthusiasm, it’s to enjoy it.’
The woman was filmed standing by the side of the road and grinning at TV cameras while holding up a large sign saying ‘Go! Grandma and Grandpa’ in a mixture of French and German.
She had her back to the approaching peloton and was hit in the left arm before spinning around.
German cyclist Tony Martin was the first to go down, and then there was a horrifying domino effect that ended in a tangle of bikes and bodies.
There were numerous wounds, including ones to Jasha Sütterlin, another German rider, who had to pull out of the entire contest.
A roadside spectator (left) caused a massive crash in the Tour de France on Saturday with a banner aimed at her family. A woman has since been arrested and taken into custody, but the complaint from the organisers has now been withdrawn
Tony Martin had nowhere to go when the supporter stepped out, looking at the TV cameras and it started the huge pile-up
The accident caused a massive blockage and saw more than 20 riders hit the deck injured in one of the Tour’s worst crashes
‘If we are in a group, we are all on the same side of the road, we hold the children by the hand, we do not come with our pets, we do not cross the road, and above all we respect the riders,’ said Mr Prudhomme.
‘They are the ones who deserve the television, not the people who are around them.’
Mr Prudhomme said he did not regret making a complaint in the first place, but was unhappy about ‘the media enthusiasm behind it.’
The woman disappeared before finally turning herself into police on Wednesday in the Brittany town of Landerneau.
She lives in the Finistere department of Brittany, in which Landerneau is situated, and had admitted wanting to get a message to her grandparents through TV cameras.
‘She did not have far to travel to get to the race, and clearly knew how to escape after causing so much damage,’ said the investigating soure.
Numerous witnesses were interviewed, and camera footage was also inspected in order to track the suspect down, before she handed herself in.
‘Now that she has been caught, she has to be questioned at length, to find out exactly what her motives were,’ said the source.
Prosecutors have opened a criminal enquiry for ‘deliberately violating safety regulations and so causing injuries that might prevent someone working for up to three months.’
This is an indictable offence in France punishable with up to a year in prison and a fine equivalent to just under £13,000.
While the prosecution can technically continue, the withdrawal of the Tour de France complaint will provide considerable mitigation.
It may well lead to the woman going free, with a warning and not a fine.
The massive crash took place near the summit of the Saint-Rivoal hill in the town of Saint-Cadou, some 30 miles from the end of the 123-mile race from the Atlantic port city of Brest, which is where the nearest airport is. She is now being questioned in Landerneau, where the first stage concluded on Saturday
Riders survey the damage after the crash during the 108th Tour de France 2021, with many left bruised and battling injuries
‘It looks like a war scene, the same chaos, the same moans, bodies everywhere and tangled machines,’ Versier told French daily newspaper L’Equipe.
‘You can’t imagine so much breakage. In the midst of the commotion, the runners getting up and wanting to start again, the most serious cases must be identified.
The woman is now being held in Landerneau (above), the small town in Brittany where Sunday’s first stage concluded
Tour de France surgeon Gilbert Versier (right) likened the chaos caused in the crash to a ‘war zone’ such as Afghanistan or Iraq
One of the cyclists, Swiss star Marc Hirschi, found himself thrown into the nearby hedges and he dislocated his shoulder
The crash has been labelled as one of the worst ever in the history of the Tour de France, which is in its 108th instalment
‘In general, these are the ones who are furthest from the accident site, because they have been thrown.’
One of the cyclists caught up in the crash, Marc Soler, saw his Tour brought to an early end after sustaining fractures to his elbows and wrists. He has voiced his intention to seek action against the woman responsible.
‘I don’t know what to do, I’m thinking of taking the spectator to court, because that’s an entire Tour canned and I feel very angry,’ he said, as per Cycling News.
He went on to add: ‘The fall happened at a point in the race where the road narrowed and we were trying to be well-placed, we were near the front and then I saw all the Jumbo-Visma riders going down and [Mike] Teunissen crashed right in front of me.
‘I went flying, somersaulted and landed hard on my hands. They both hurt, and so did my face where my glasses had broken and my shoulder too. I tried to get up but I couldn’t, I didn’t have any strength in my arms.
‘The mechanic pulled me up by my armpits, and I sat on the side of the road, I was really dizzy. There were still 50 kilometres to go.
‘They [the team] told me to try to go on but I don’t know how I did, I couldn’t change gear or brake. When I got to the finish, I was worried about the time limit, but I couldn’t even get my clothes off in the bus, they had to cut them off with scissors. Then when we got to the medical truck, they confirmed my injuries.’
Tour riders brought the race to a halt for around a minute during the fourth stage on Tuesday, and held a silent protest for safer racing conditions.
Things took another turn for the worst on the same day, however, when Team Ineos’ Geraint Thomas dislocated his shoulder on another chaotic race day for stage 3.
When Thomas crashed less than 25 miles into the 114-mile stage, it appeared his race might be over as he sat on the road in pain and fell three minutes behind the peloton. But after having his shoulder popped back in, he remounted and lost just 26sec by the finish. He was 67sec off the overall leader.
An X-ray on Monday night confirmed the Welshman had not suffered a fracture, and he was reassessed ahead of the first time trial on Wednesday.
Source: Daily Mail UK