LAVAL, France (REUTERS/NYTIMES) – The spectator who caused a massive pile-up during the first stage of the Tour de France has been arrested after presenting herself at a police station, a source close to the investigation told Reuters on Saturday (June 26).
The spectator, a 30-year-old French woman, is in custody at a police station in Landerneau, Brittany, the northwest French region where the Tour de France, the world’s biggest cycling event, held its first four stages.
The woman turned herself in, Col. Nicolas Duvinage of the Landernau, France, police told France Bleu Finistere.
Video from the race Saturday showed the woman leaning into the road while holding up a cardboard sign for the television cameras. Because she had her back to the approaching riders, she failed to realise how close the riders were to her position and did not pull the sign out of the way of the racers in time.
German rider Tony Martin, who was near the front of the pack of cyclists, crashed into it with his handlebars and, losing his momentum and his balance, fell onto the road in front of the tightly packed field. That set off a cascade of collisions that led to several injuries; dozens of riders were involved in the crash.
“I saw the lady, I saw the sign, but there was no time to react,” Martin told reporters.
One rider involved in Saturday’s crash, Jasha Sutterlin, dropped out of the race. Martin was able to continue.
The crash happened during the first of the race’s 21 stages, in the municipality of St.-Cadou. The sign read, “Allez opi-omi!” – a mix of French and German that roughly translates as “Go, granddad-grandma.”
The police said that the woman holding it, who was wearing glasses and a yellow jacket, left the scene before investigators arrived.
The specific details of how she was identified or arrested were unclear Wednesday. The police in France did not respond to several requests for comment.
Pierre-Yves Thouault, deputy director of cycling with the Amaury Sport Organization, which runs the Tour de France, threatened to sue the fan, Agence France-Presse reported.
“We are doing this so that the tiny minority of people who do this don’t spoil the show for everyone,” he said.
Since it takes place on public roads in France, the cycling race gives millions of spectators a chance for up-close views of the action year after year. But fans have at times interfered in the competition by running alongside the riders or blocking their path.
Another huge pile-up occurred in a nervy finale on narrow roads on Monday, leading the Tour de France riders to put their collective foot down one kilometre into the fourth stage on Tuesday – literally – bringing the race to a halt for about a minute in a silent protest for safer racing conditions after the crashes.