Tour de France: French Police arrest a woman over worst-ever crash

A woman has been arrested in connection with the worst crash in the history of the Tour de France.

French radio network RTL detailed today that a woman has been identified in connection with the crash and has since been taken into police custody in Landerneau, an area in Brittany, France.   

It remains unclear if the woman handed herself in for arrest or arranged to be taken to custody in Landerneau, where stage 1 concluded, or if she was picked up in the area following reports earlier this week that the woman police were looking for had become ‘untraceable’. 

No further details were released but it marks a major breakthrough just hours on from prosecutors leading the case making a public appeal for anyone who could help identify. 

The police investigation has been ongoing since Saturday after the fan’s reckless decision to step out on to the road to show off her placard, with a message for her family, had devastating consequences for the racing peloton in stage 1 of the Tour.

Camille Miansoni, the prosecutor of the Republic of Brest, was quizzed on updates surrounding the woman on Tuesday evening who, as of this morning, was believed to still be at large, while giving a public press conference for a different case.

‘Things are progressing well and we hope to be able to explain this event within a reasonable time,’ Miansoni told assembled media in Brest.

‘After the call for witnesses which was launched in the evening, several testimonies were taken. 

‘Obviously, you have to cross-check them, you have to check them, it takes a little time.’

When pushed for a time-frame for a resolution in locating the woman, Miansoni added: ‘I can not give more elements, we are confident’. 

It marked a change in tone just 24 hours on from reports in France that the female spectator who caused the crash was ‘untraceable’ to authorities after getting on a flight home to flee the scene.   

The crash took place near the summit of the Saint-Rivoal hill in the town of Saint-Cadou, with the nearest major city of Brest 28 miles away.  

The nearest airport to the crash site at Saint-Cadou is Brest Bretagne airport, some 40 minutes drive west by car. 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic that airport is operating on a reduced departure list and most of their outbound flights are nationally internal in France, to destinations such as Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon. Of 11 departing flights today, not one was outside of France, raising questions about how far the wanted fan managed to get from the crash site to avoid detection.   

French outlet Ouest-France previously said the nationality of the spectator is ‘probably German’ given the language – Omi and Opi – used on the placard but there were real fears she became ‘untraceable’ in the aftermath.    

A roadside spectator (left) caused a massive crash in the Tour de France on Saturday with a banner aimed at her family. A woman has since been arrested and taken into custody hours on from prosecutors revealing they were ‘confident’

Tony Martin had nowhere to go when the supporter stepped out, looking at the TV cameras and it started the huge pile-up

The accident caused a massive blockage and saw more than 20 riders hit the deck injured in one of the Tour’s worst crashes

The massive crash took place near the summit of the Saint-Rivoal hill in the town of Saint-Cadou, some 30 miles from the end of the 123-mile race from the Atlantic port city of Brest, which is where the nearest airport is. The fan is believed to have flown home, according to Ouest-France, but due to Covid-19, many of the departing flights there are internal in France

Riders survey the damage after the crash during the 108th Tour de France 2021, with many left bruised and battling injuries

Chaos broke out in stage 1 when the fan, who had her back to the fast-moving peloton with a handmade sign which read ‘Allez Opi Omi’ – translated as a mix of French and German to mean ‘Go Grandma Grandpa’ – stepped out into the road at handlebar height. 

In a split-second it caused German Tony Martin and around 50 other riders to crash. The incident caused 21 injuries, and even forced Jasha Suetterlin of Team DSM to abandon the race.   

Prosecutors in Brittany launched a criminal inquiry on Sunday against the female fan responsible for the crash during the first stage of the 108th Tour de France on Saturday.  

A spokesman for the Finistere Gendarmerie pleaded over the weekend for the public’s help in finding the wanted fan: ‘The spectator who caused this accident left the scene before the arrival of the investigators. 

‘Everything is being done to try and find her. She was wearing glasses and dressed in blue jeans, a red and white striped sweater, and a waxed yellow jacket.’ 

It appears the public appeal has helped reach today’s position of an arrest being made.  

The grounds for inquiry are that the fan ‘deliberately violated safety regulations and so causing injuries that might prevent someone working for up to three months’. This is an indictable offence punishable with up to a year in prison and a fine equivalent to just under £13,000. 

Saturday’s dramatic crash at the Tour de France, which left 21 riders injured, was ‘like a war zone’ with the same ‘chaos’ and ‘moans’ from those involved, according to the on-site surgeon.

Gilbert Versier has been working as an orthopaedic surgeon on the Tour for 11 years but previously served as a medical officer, a three-star general, operating out in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

‘It looks like a war scene, the same chaos, the same moans, bodies everywhere and tangled machines,’ Versier told French daily newspaper L’Equipe. 

‘You can’t imagine so much breakage. In the midst of the commotion, the runners getting up and wanting to start again, the most serious cases must be identified. 

‘In general, these are the ones who are furthest from the accident site, because they have been thrown.’ 

British rider Chris Froome was among those caught up in the wreckage but he was able to get back on his bike on Sunday and complete stage two of the Tour de France despite being admitted to hospital on Saturday in light of the crash.

Speaking from a hospital bed on Saturday evening, Froome said:  ‘In a split second there were 50 or 60 of us all on the ground. I guess that’s bike racing.’    

Versier revealed it was common to see adrenaline fuel many riders to completing the stage despite others like Swiss rider Marc Hirshi dislocating his shoulder in the pile-up. 

‘The adrenaline rush is so bad that it makes them forget the pain,’ the surgeon added. 

‘Even seriously affected riders, such as Spaniard Marc Soler, both elbows fractured, Briton Chris Froome, with hip and chest injuries, or Swiss Marc Hirshi, his right shoulder completely disjointed, manage to finish.’ 

Tour de France surgeon Gilbert Versier (right) likened the chaos caused in the crash to a ‘war zone’ such as Afghanistan or Iraq

One of the cyclists, Swiss star Marc Hirschi, found himself thrown into the nearby hedges and he dislocated his shoulder

The crash has been labelled as one of the worst ever in the history of the Tour de France, which is in its 108th instalment

Hirshi suffered a dislocated shoulder with acromioclavicular ligament injury, a grade 3 injury, according to UAE team doctor Jereon Swart. 

But ‘after six hours sleep’ he was back ready to race on Sunday, fuelled by codeine, caffeine and paracetamol.

Tour deputy director Pierre-Yves Thouault told AFP that he is suing the woman for ‘behaving so badly’ to ensure ‘that the tiny minority of people who do this don’t spoil the show for everyone’. 

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins said he had no sympathy for the fan involved, telling Eurosport: ‘They’re part and parcel of the spectacle of the Tour de France. And this year, in particular, being able to come back onto the route and watch it. I don’t know how you police it.’

Race director Christian Prudhomme slammed the French public for turning out in their droves and behaving ‘inadmissibly’ following the relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown, with ‘people running across the road in front of the race and children left to their own devices’. 

‘You come here to see heroes,’ he told French media. ‘If you want to see yourself look in the mirror.’

In the wake of Saturday’s crash, an official Tour statement over the weekend read: ‘We’re glad to have the public on the side of the road on the #TDF2021. But for the Tour to be a success, respect the safety of the riders! Don’t risk everything for a photo or to get on television!’ 

Martin was the man brought down initially, left with some road rash on his left side but he got back on his bike to ride

It was another day of crashes on Monday afternoon as 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas hit the ground with a bad fall 

In a team press release, Mr Martin said: ‘We had everything under control until the crash. I brought the guys to the front via the right side of the road, but crashed into the sign of the spectator. 

‘It all happened very quickly; suddenly almost the entire team was on the ground. Many spectators behave respectfully, but unfortunately not this one. Fortunately, Primoz came through it well. I hope the physical damage to myself and the other guys is manageable.’   

Mr Thouault said that organisers had filed a complaint against the woman who now faces potential legal action from the Tour.

‘This is unacceptable behaviour,’ he said.’ There are safety rules to follow. Spectators don’t cross the road, they don’t take selfies. Frankly, her attitude was insane. The show is the riders, not spectators who want to be on TV.

‘The Tour must remain a party but because of the attitude of a very small minority, it is ruined. We can no longer accept this.’ 

Things took another turn for the worst at the Tour on Tuesday when Team Ineos’ Geraint Thomas dislocated his shoulder on another chaotic race day for stage 3.

When Thomas crashed less than 25 miles into the 114-mile stage, it appeared his race might be over as he sat on the road in pain and fell three minutes behind the peloton. But after having his shoulder popped back in, he remounted and lost just 26sec by the finish. He is 67sec off the overall leader. 

An X-ray on Monday night confirmed the Welshman had not suffered a fracture, but he will be reassessed this morning ahead of the first time trial on Wednesday.   

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