Spectator who caused Tour de France pile-up tells court she made a mistake

Prosecutors seek four-month suspended sentence over incident at first stage last June

Prosecutors in the trial of a roadside spectator who caused a massive pile-up during the first stage of the Tour de France in June called on Thursday for a four-month suspended jail sentence, a lawyer for the riders' union said.

The court postponed its ruling to December 9th, lawyer Romuald Palao, who represents the Professional Cyclists' Association (CPA), which is party to the trial, told reporters after a hearing in the French city of Brest.

The French woman, who has not been named, sent one cyclist tumbling – with dozens more falling to the ground as a consequence – because of a cardboard sign she was holding at a television camera, facing away from the cyclists.

The young woman, who a prosecutor said felt ashamed of what she did, is accused of involuntarily causing injury and putting the lives of others at risk.


Speaking in a low voice, she told the court on Thursday that she made a mistake, a Reuters reporter at the trial saw. A lawyer for the defendant declined to comment on the trial.

“The public is key to cycling races, it must remain that way, but it must be done with respect for the physical integrity of the riders,” Palao said, adding that he hoped the trial would help raise awareness over safety risks in cycling races.

The Tour de France withdrew its own lawsuit in July, saying that while the safety of the race was key, the case had been blown out of proportion after it triggered a media frenzy.

Narrow road

The incident last June happened as the woman stood with other spectators at the side of a narrow road near the finish of the first day’s racing in northwest France. she held up a wide cardboard sign that read: “Allez Opi-Omi” – opi and omi being informal German terms for grandfather and grandmother.

She was hoping to be spotted by TV cameras to impress her German-origin grandparents, who were watching the race on TV. But she stepped out too far in front of the tightly packed peloton as it sped along the road.The German rider Tony Martin bumped into her and fell, causing dozens of riders to crash while others swerved into the crowd.

Footage of the collision showing medics tending stunned and grimacing victims prompted outrage among fans and race organisers, especially when they discovered the woman had fled the scene instead of staying to help. She remained in hiding for four days before turning herself in to police.

Several riders had to pull out of the race, including Spain's Marc Soler, who broke his arms.