LA CAVERNE DU PONT-D’ARC, France (VN) — The Tour de France, and life, “must go on” after the truck terrorism attack that left 84 dead Thursday night in Nice, France.
Police report that at least 84 were killed by the driver of a truck that plowed through people on the Promenade des Anglais, who were celebrating France’s Bastille Day Thursday night around 11. The city along France’s Côte d’Azur, home of several professional cyclists, hosted the Tour de France in 2013 and annually sees the end of the Paris-Nice stage race.
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The race began as usual in Bourg-Saint-Andéol on Friday after a minute’s silence before the first cyclist, Sam Bennett (Bora – Argon 18) set off on the 37.5-kilometer time trial to La Caverne du Point-d’Arc.
“I called my wife and my two children this morning because we live only 10 miles from Nice,” Frenchman Mickaël Chérel (Ag2r La Mondiale) said. “I’m very happy that they were not in Nice yesterday evening. I called two other friends who live there, to check on them, but the telephone networks are down.”
The Tour de France already beefed up its security after the Paris attacks last November that left 130 dead. Yesterday, as Montpellier began to celebrate Bastille Day and the start of stage 12 of the Tour de France, security forces were more visible than normal. Police in plainclothes were seen with guns at their side around the buses and sign-in zone.
The truck incident in Nice only put the Tour de France further on edge.
“At a time like this, it puts everything into perceptive here for us here in the race when there was a massacre that we had in Nice yesterday,” race leader Chris Froome (Sky) said. “Those were absolutely horrific scenes, horrific scenes. My thoughts are with the French public, especially those in Nice, the families whose lost love ones and everyone’s who’s been affected by these attacks.”
“It’s difficult for everyone to race today given this heavy moment,” Chérel added. “We have to focus on the race, but it’s a tragedy.”
Yesterday, the fans on Mont Ventoux showed how vulnerable the Tour de France can be. Fans forced a motorbike to brake and that caused Froome, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) to crash. The incident was quickly forgotten this morning with the Nice tragedy, but one that the ASO will have noted.
“The organization put many gendarmerie on the roads to protect us, but only one man can cause many to die,” said Chérel. “This is the world that we have to live in now.”
“It’s difficult to be focused on the race with all of France and the world thinking of Nice,” French cyclist Jérémy Roy (FDJ) added.
“We think about the terrorism problems sometimes. Last year, I saw one man in the middle of the bunch in the last lap of the race in Paris. I was very afraid about that.
“The show must go on all over the world, but of course we need to be safe. That’s not only in cycling but for all people. We need to live free.”