French police launched a call for witnesses Sunday into the giant crash that marred the opening stage at the Tour de France, caused by a spectator who leant into the path of the speeding peloton holding up a sign.
The woman held up a sign with ‘Granny and Grandad’ written in German and looked up the road towards the race’s motorbike cameras, crucially, with her back to the speeding peloton.
Tony Martin brushed into her, lost his balance and fell, causing a sickening domino effect that swept through most of the peloton, leaving them in a tangled mess of bikes and bodies.
The woman, who was wearing a yellow raincoat, reeled away in horror when she realised the extent of her folly, but she then disappeared into the deep roadside crowds, her sign folded away beneath her arm.
DSM’s rider Jasha Sutterlin was the only cyclist who had to pull out at once, his Tour de France dream ruined on day one.
Eight other riders needed treatment from the official doctor and a host of others were treated for grazes, bruises and cuts caused by the pile-up.
Italian champion Sonny Colbrelli and Wout van Aert, who ran over Martin before falling head over heels, had both been among the favourites to win the first stage.
“We are suing this woman who behaved so badly,” Tour deputy director Pierre-Yves Thouault told AFP. “We are doing this so that the tiny minority of people who do this do not spoil the show for everyone,” he said.
The police said that when they catch the culprit they intend to charge her with “unintentional short-term injury through a manifestly deliberate breach of a duty of safety or care”, lieutenant-colonel Scherer said.
“We can confirm that no member of the public was injured and we have liaised with the race organisers on this.”
“We witnessed inadmissable behaviour today with people running across the road in front of the race and children left to their own devices,” race director Christian Prudhomme told French media. “You come here to see heroes. If you want to see, yourself look in the mirror.”