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TOURS, France (VN) — The spectator who caused a major pileup on stage 1 of the 2021 Tour de France is likely to face legal charges, and some riders believe that is a step too far.
News that police found and charged the fan who provoked the stage 1 pileup ricocheted around the peloton overnight, and on Thursday morning some riders voiced their belief that charging the fan is not the right course of action.
“Arresting a fan is too much,” said Ag2r-Citroën’s Oliver Naesen. “I hope her name doesn’t appear online or [on] social media, because those things can be life-changing.”
On Wednesday the fan — identified as a 30-year-old Frenchwoman — turned herself in to authorities. The woman was cited for causing the first major crash in Saturday’s opening stage in Brittany. She was holding a cardboard sign with a message to her grandparents when Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin struck her.
According to The New York Times, Camille Miansoni, a prosecutor in Brest, France, who is overseeing the case, said he will decide whether or not to press charges against the woman. The charges under consideration could carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison, depending on the severity of the injuries sustained by cyclists in the crash. Prison is not likely, Miansoni said.
“She expressed a feeling of shame, of fear for the consequences of her actions,” the French prosecutor said in a news conference.
According to media reports, the woman in question lives not far from where the crash happened in the town of Landerneau.
Still, Naesen believes that the incident does not warrant legal punishment.
“It’s an accident, and she didn’t do it on purpose. I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t find her,” Naesen told VeloNews. “Every team was involved in the crash, but I didn’t go down. Every day we pass 1,000 people like her who are hanging over the roads. We crash into one, but not the other ones. What can we do? We cannot arrest them all.”
That impact provoked a massive pileup that brought the peloton to a standstill as bodies and bikes blocked the road. Jasha Sütterlin (DSM) crashed out that day, and Spanish rider Marc Soler, who left the Tour as a result, is also threatening legal action.
There was also an outpouring of grief and anger on social media directed toward the woman, who went into hiding to avoid the public angst before someone who recognized her face called police.
Riders and teams continue to press the Tour and the UCI to create safer racing conditions.
Several high-profile crashes in the opening three days of racing caused by narrow roads, increased tension in the bunch, and the return to fans along the roadway following the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions all added up to dangerous racing.
Riders even staged an impromptu protest early in Tuesday’s stage to try to bring rider safety questions into sharper focus.
Riders, however, said going after over-zealous fans who did not do something on purpose is going too far.
“It’s good for the signal [to fans], but for me, we don’t have to punish her that hard. She didn’t do it on purpose,” said Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt. “She just made a really stupid move and it was really dumb, but she didn’t do it on purpose.
“She wanted her five seconds of fame, and now it was even longer,” De Gendt told VeloNews. “They don’t have to punish her that much.”