A woman who caused a massive pile-up during the Tour de France’s opening stage has been arrested after handing herself in to French police.
- The woman faces a fine, but could also be subject to further legal action
- Two riders were forced to abandon cycling’s biggest race after the crash
- Defending champion Tadej Pogačar took control with a blistering performance in the stage five time trial
With 47 kilometres left of the stage on Saturday, the spectator brandished a large cardboard sign while leaning into the path of oncoming riders.
Footage showed her looking in the other direction, apparently at a camera, and not at the approaching peloton.
The woman, who was not publicly identified, was arrested by gendarmes in the Finistère region on Wednesday local time.
They tracked her down based on “solid” accounts from people questioned this week, local radio station France Bleu Finistère said, citing a source close to the probe.
Investigators had spoken to dozens of people since the incident, the station said.
The Reuters news agency said the woman had been arrested after handing herself into a police station.
Tour organisers had announced that they would start legal proceedings against the woman, who fled the crash scene.
Tour de France deputy director Pierre-Yves Thouault told the AFP news agency: “We are suing this woman who behaved so badly.”
She had leaned into the path of veteran rider Tony Martin, who fell off his bike and took dozens of others down.
German rider Jasha Sütterlin was unable to continue the stage, abandoning the race, while Marc Soler completed the stage but was later revealed to have suffered fractures in both arms, meaning he too was forced to abandon.
Eight other riders were seen by the race doctor, while many others suffered minor injuries.
The woman is likely to be fined 1,500 euros for endangering the riders, although several of those affected have hinted at taking further action.
Local police refused to comment on the reported arrest.
Fans gathering on the sides of roads and in villages as riders pass by is part of the tradition and charm of the Tour.
But the woman in question leaned into the path of cyclists with her sign that read “Allez Opi-Omi,” a mix of French and German-language terms of endearment for grandparents: “Go Grandpa-Grandma.”
Tadej Pogačar powers to time trial victory, cements race favouritism
In the day’s racing, Slovenian defending champion Tadej Pogačar took control with a blistering performance in the stage five time trial.
Pogačar, who stunned compatriot Primož Roglič in the penultiumate time trial stage of last year’s race, laid down a serious marker for his rivals with a blistering time on the 27.2km-long ride around Changé.
“Today was a really good day for me. I didn’t do any mistakes,” Pogačar said.
The 22-year-old UAE Team Emirates leader did not seize the yellow jersey, which remains on the shoulders of Mathieu van der Poel by a mere 8 seconds.
But he gained significant time over his main rivals, completing the technical course in 32 minutes at an average speed of 51kph.
Pogačar was 44 seconds faster than Roglič, while 2018 champion Geraint Thomas dropped 1 minute, 18 seconds.
His Ineos Grenadiers teammate Richard Carapaz, a former Giro champion with big ambitions at the Tour this year, was 1:44 off the pace.
Their Australian teammate Richie Porte fared better, losing just 55 seconds, but as he lost significant time during the crash-marred Brittany stages earlier in the race, he still sits 3 minutes , 50 seconds off the pace overall.
The Tour is a race of attrition and remains wide open, with bigger tests to come in the mountain stages of the Alps and Pyrenees.
However, Pogačar proved last year — when he became the second-youngest winner in the race’s history — that he can compete with the best climbers.
In addition, he has a stronger team this year, and the Tour is less mountainous.
More importantly, another long time trial will be on the program on the eve of the finish on the Champs-Élysées.
Roglič, who was Pogacar’s main rival last year, said he was proud of his performance following his heavy crash two days earlier.
“It’s hard, definitely. All the time trials are always very painful, let’s say it like that,” he said.
Thomas was also recovering from a crash and said he did the best he could.
“Obviously, I didn’t feel 100 per cent, but I don’t want to bang on about that, I tried to do what I could and it wasn’t enough really,” he said.
“I woke up this morning and felt terrible, but once I got going and loosened up it was better. It’s just one of those things that you have to crack on and deal with — just keep fighting I guess.”