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HARROGATE, United Kingdom (AFP) — Tour de France riders and organizers praised the “amazing” crowds in Yorkshire on Saturday but pleaded with people to take more care of their safety.
The number of people standing by the side of the roads along the 190km course from Leeds to Harrogate stunned many observers, but several riders said their enthusiasm had gotten the better of them.
Stage winner Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) said that while it was great to see, they needed to be more wary of their safety.
“There were some moments when I thought, ‘Now we will crash,’ because the spectators were taking pictures and didn’t see that they were in the center of the road,” he said.
“It’s very important to tell people we are of course happy to have them there, they were an amazing crowd, it was really amazing to see them there, but they really have to take care of themselves and stay off the road and look after their children.”
Tour organizers took to Twitter to plead with people to be more careful, asking that they “please stay beside the road during the race.”
Sprinter André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) also urged fans lining the streets to give way to the race. He tweeted: “I appreciate people coming to support us + making an incredible feeling 4 us along the road but please stay beside the road not on the road.”
Not everyone thought it was a problem, though. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) crashed in the sprint finish when he and Omega Pharma’s Mark Cavendish collided, but he had nothing but praise for the supporters.
“The crowds were unbelievable,” he said. “It’s not too many times in my career that I’ve raced in front of crowds as big as we’ve had today. It’s a bit of a buzz racing in front of so many people.”
Some people compared the crowds on the Yorkshire Dales with the throngs usually seen in the Alps or Pyrenees. Garmin-Sharp boss Jonathan Vaughters tweeted a picture of the crowds with a message: “Crowds were truly incredible today. Biggest I’ve seen outside L’Alpe d’Huez.”