One unlucky fan will have to live forever knowing they sparked an epic, but terrifying, pile-up at the Tour de France — just trying to cheer the riders on.
“Allez Opi-Omi!” (“Go Grandma and Grandpa!”, en français) read the handmade cardboard sign that stuck just un peu too far out onto the route. And then … mon dieu:
Germany’s Tony Martin was the unfortunate cardboard-then-pavement eater, and he was followed by a host of others. It happened with about 29 miles left and was the first of two crashes in the opening 123-mile stage of the often-grueling 2,121-mile, 21-stage race. It cost a number of top riders precious time to recover and remount their bikes. German Jasha Suetterlin was the only rider to drop from the race entirely as a result.
It was unclear who the fan was, but they were smiling, appeared not to be looking at the oncoming riders, and had one foot on the road — with the sign clearly jutting out into the path of dozens of riders, in a race where the winner commonly averages approximately 25 miles per hour.
Updated June 29, 2021 at 1:45 p.m.: And now it appears that fan is on the run, having fled the country as Tour organizers plan to sue, “so that the tiny minority of people who do this don’t spoil the show for everyone,” Tour de France deputy director Pierre-Yves Thouault told the AFP.
Julian Alaphilippe won the hilly stage from Brest to Landerneau to capture the yellow jersey. Michael Matthews was eight seconds behind and 2020 runner-up Primoz Roglic (who was involved in the first crash) came third. That version of the now-117-year tradition was moved to late August due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically, fans were severely limited last year, but restrictions eased this year to allow more, and closer, interaction with the riders. Tadej Pogecar won the 2020 race and become the youngest champ in more than a century at 21 years old. He placed sixth in stage one. The top American finisher was Neilson Powless in 57th place.
The second stage begins tomorrow with 114 miles from Perros-Guirec to Bretagne Guerledan.