PONTIVY, France (NewsNation Now) — A string of heavy crashes has reduced the Tour de France peloton to a heap of wounded bodies, and now a leading sports director called for greater safety at the world’s greatest cycling race.
The tour annually winds its way through small towns and villages allowing fans that unique moment of closeness to the sport. A proximity that can sometimes be treacherous to spectators and riders
A devastating crash in the first stage of the race Saturday sent cyclists to the hospital while setting off a search for the woman who caused it.
“In a split second there were fifty or sixty of us on the ground. I guess that’s bike racing,” cyclist Chris Froome said of the wreck.
Froome described the moment on his YouTube channel when the peloton made its way through the northwest town of Landernau. A woman in a yellow jacket holding a sign reading “allezopi-omi” a mix of French and German translating to “let’s go grandpa and grandma.”
The attempted five minutes of fame caused her to be hit and then a domino effect of bicycles to fall, sending some riders home.
As of Monday, Law enforcement were still looking for the woman, she had disappeared into the crowd after the catastrophic crash. She could face a lawsuit in connection with the wreck.
German cyclist Tony Martin, among the crash victims and the favorites in this year’s tour, lashed out on Instagram, “The tour is not a circus and quote use your head or stay home! We don’t want you here. You ris(k) our life and our dreams for that we work so hard!”
In stage 3, Geraint Thomas and Primoz Roglic and others took more tumbles in separate incidents involving no fans at all.
But it was two more pile-ups in a nervy finale on narrow roads that were the main cause for concern in the peloton.
On a left-hand curve with four kilometres left in the 182.9-km stage from Lorient, a massive crash took down among others France’s Arnaud Demare and Bahrain Victorious team leader Jack Haig, who was forced to abandon the race.
Then in the final metres Australian Caleb Ewan, one of the top sprinters, took a heavy fall at high speed and broke his collarbone, also forcing him out of the race.
The two late incidents triggered an angry reaction from Demare’s Groupama FDJ team manager Marc Madiot.
“We’ve been talking about this for years, but now we have to find solutions. We can’t go on like this, it’s not cycling anymore. The bend with 150 metres to go… What state is Caleb Ewan in? And the others? So we have to change, we have to be able to say that it’s not working anymore,” he said.
A leading sports director who has taken part in several editions of the Tour lashed out at the organisers for the way they designed the stage’s finale through narrow, winding roads.
“Unbelievable to send riders on such roads in the last 20 kilometres. It’s a circus. Clearly they don’t care about the riders’ health,” the sports director, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Tour de France organisers were not available for comment.
International Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient, who followed the stage in an official organisers’ car, said the roads were in good shape and not too narrow.
He said the stakes of riding in the Tour de France made the whole peloton more nervous and error-prone.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report