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Tour De France Officials Search For Spectator Who Caused Massive Crash

NOEL KING, HOST:

Spectators are finally returning to big sporting events, which is great, but over the weekend, the Tour de France got a dramatic display of the downside of fans coming back.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It happened during the first stage of the race.

FRED DREIER: And the peloton is rumbling through a narrow road out there in the middle of Brittany, France. And there was a fan on the side of the road holding a sign.

MARTIN: That's Fred Dreier, editor-in-chief of the cycling website VeloNews. The fan's message was a German term of endearment for a grandparent, but it was pointed at the cameras, not the riders.

KING: And so the sign hit a biker who was at the head of the pack, and he went tumbling.

DREIER: And when crashes happen at the front of the peloton in situations like this, it's just a domino effect. And you see dozens of riders going down.

KING: Other sporting events might pause or reset because of that kind of interruption. But racers on the tour who were caught in the crash have no such luck.

DREIER: It's sort of like the New England Patriots starting the Super Bowl all of a sudden down three touchdowns because of something that happened inside the first two minutes of the game.

MARTIN: Dreier says while this crash was especially bad, crashes during bike races in general aren't that uncommon.

DREIER: You watch enough a bike races, you see crazy stuff like this all the time, you know, dogs running out into the course. I remember a few years ago - I believed it was a race in Spain - a horse ran onto the course, and all of a sudden, the riders are just sort of, you know, riding along, just hoping they're not going to get knocked over by this horse.

MARTIN: It's unclear whether that horse faced any consequences, but Tour de France organizers have said they plan to sue the woman with the sign if they can find her. They suspect she left France after the incident.

DREIER: As far as I know, this woman has not yet been located. But, yeah, the Tour de France organizer is making a big public fuss about this.

KING: Some riders have asked for more barriers between themselves and spectators. But Dreier says that given the race is hundreds of miles and there are millions of watchers along the path, there's really no point.

DREIER: People using their best judgment, you're relying on people being on their best behavior for this thing to go off. And most of the time, it does. Like, 99.9% of the time it does.

KING: And for that 99.9% of the time, seeing that event live and in person is special for a lot of fans.

DREIER: I tell people to think of them like they are a Fourth of July parade. Like, we all went to Fourth of July parades as kids. Many of us may take our kids to Fourth of July parade some days. And you go because you went there as a kid and because it's sort of part of our culture.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENEMIES' "A BLIND COCKTAIL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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