The Tour de France is one of the biggest and most famous sporting events in the world, but as the opening stages of 2021 have shown, it is also wildly dangerous. After days of alarming accidents, cyclists protested the dangerous conditions on Tuesday.
The spills began on Saturday, the first day of the tour, when two crashes caused more than 21 injuries. The first of the two incidents has itself become international news: a camera-loving spectator holding a sign on the narrow bike path caused a cyclist to lose his balance and fall. Chaotic chaos ensued and one of the injured riders was forced off the course entirely.
“My wife doesn’t want to see my son on a bike,” Marc Madiot, former champion cyclist and coach of the Groupama- FDJ team, said after the two accidents on Saturday. “It has been years that we are talking about safety, we need to find solutions. They are no longer motorcycle racing. One day there will be dead.”
The deputy director of the Tour de France, Pierre-Yves Thouault, told AFP that the organization would sue the woman who inadvertently caused the accident. The only problem? She fled the scene and is still at large.
However, midway through the race disaster struck. An enthusiastic spectator, eager to show her sign to a nearby camera, ran close to the runway and held out the sign. His back was to the cyclists and as such did not notice their rapid approach. His cardboard sign made German cyclist Tony Martin lose his balance slightly. Due to how tight all the bikers were on the narrow track, that was enough for him to crash.
There were two crashes on the opening day of the Tour de France, with 21 injuries between them. The crowding caused by the spectator holding the poster caused nine of those injured.
“We had everything under control until the accident,” Martin said in a press release. “Everything happened very quickly; suddenly almost the entire team was on the ground … Many spectators behave with respect, but unfortunately not this one.”
Martin was able to finish the race, but the same cannot be said for German athlete Jasha Sütterlin. After suffering a large bruise, Sütterlin was forced to leave the circuit after being unable to continue in the race.
“It looks like a war zone”, Gilbert Versier, a surgeon who works for the Tour de France, told the French publication L’Equip. “The same chaos, the same moans, bodies everywhere and tangled machines.”
Reactions on social media have ranged from commenting on the horrific accident to mocking (or sympathizing with) the viewer and wondering how this is possible.
Saturday’s spill caused by the sign was the first of many. Later, towards the end of the same stage, 12 cyclists suffered injuries in another crash. That includes several who suffered a head injury and a Cyril Lemoine, with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
As a result, about half a mile into Tuesday’s 93-mile (150-kilometer) Stage 4 track, a group of cyclists protested the dangerous paths by stopping and getting off their bikes for a minute. Then they resumed the race at a slower pace.