Lance Armstrong
Cycling : Tour De France, Stage 15, Crash, Chute, Val, Armstrong Lance, Maillot Jaune, Yellow Jersey, Gele Trui, Mayo Iban, Ullrich Jan /Bagneres-De-Bigorre - Luz-Ardiden , Ronde Van Frankrijk 2003 , 100 Ans, Jaar, Year , Tdf, Etape, Rit, (Photo by Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

Five Times Fans (and Dogs) Caused Race-Changing Crashes at the Tour de France

Saturday's crash is just the latest in a long history of over-eager fans and too-close spectators causing chaos on the Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong
Andrew Hood

from Velo

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CLERMONT-FERRAND, France — Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) was licking his wounds overnight, and Steffan Cras (TotalEnergies) was riding the Tour de France of his life before an inattentive fan ruined it all.

The Belgian was 13th overall when he clipped a spectactor leaning into the race course Saturday, sending him to the hospital and knocking Yates from fourth to sixth in his quest for the final podium.

Also read: Fan provokes crash that knocks Tour de France podium contenders down and out

Saturday’s incident isn’t the first nor will it be the last when fans and over-eager spectators shape the outcome of the Tour de France.

Having the fans so close and so near to the racing action is part of the charm and allure of the Tour, so it’s inevitable that things can and will go wrong.

Here are five times fans (and dogs) changed the Tour de France:

5. Dogs on the loose: Yves Lampaert steamed

Dogs causing crashes at the Tour is nothing new. There have been numerous occasions of the years with a dog off the leash creating havoc in the Tour peloton.

One of the most striking examples happened in the 2007 Tour involving Marcus Burghardt, whose carbon wheel completed folded from the impact.

Last year’s opening yellow jersey Yves Lampaert, who snatched the maillot jaune in Copenhagen to open the 2022 Tour, later crashed in stage 12 when a dog got off the leash.

“Leave your dog at home!” barked the Belgian rider on Soudal Quick-Step.

Despite the high number of dogs and pets being strutted around the paddock in this year’s Tour, so far, none have strayed onto the race course.

4. Eddy Merckx sucker punched in 1975

Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx arrives at the finish line in Puy de Dome 11 July 1975. Merckx declared that he was hit in the liver by a spectator 150 meters before the finish line.  (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

Fans can be partisan at bike races, so much so that Eddy Merckx was famously punched in the guts during the Puy du Dome stage in 1975 in famous clash with Bernard Thévénet.

Also read: Five times the Tour de France GC imploded on the first stage

Though the next day was a rest day, Merckx remains convinced that the incident prevented him from winning a sixth yellow jersey. The next road stage was a real brute, with five climbs over the Alps ending at Pra Loup.

Merckx claims he felt searing pain in his abdomen on the final climb and he cramped up, allowing the attacking Thévénet to gap him and take over the yellow jersey. Merckx stayed stuck at five crowns.

3. Wilfried Nelissen strikes a policeman in 1994

Wilfried Nelissen provoked a horrible crash in the 1994 Tour de France when he struck a French police officer at full speed.

During that year’s Tour, police officers were stationed alongside the barriers at about 100m intervals on the finishing straight. It appeared that officer might have been taking a photo as the peloton sped in for the sprint finale.

Nelissen was sprinting along the barriers and struck the officer at full speed, also taking down Laurent Jalabert, who was left with a bloodied nose from the brutal high-speed impact.

Hundreds of police officers line the Tour route each day, from motorcycles patrolling the route, to others posted along the route at every road crossing in each stage.

There was another horrible crash involving Djamolodine Abdoujaparov on the Champs-Élysées in the 1991 Tour reveals just how close the fans can get to the action.

The “Terror from Tashkent” was opening up his attack for the prestigious final sprint in Paris when he veered straight into the sideline fencing, and provoked a massive pileup that took down riders on the right side of the road. Dazed and confused, he eventually was helped across the finish line by teammates, and claimed the first of three green jerseys he’d win.

Though he was crumpled on the road 100 meters from the finish, rules required that he cross the finish line to have the official result.

2. Opi-Omi provokes worst mass crash in modern Tour de France history

The fan holding the sign has been fined by a French court
The fan holding the sign has been fined by a French court (Photo: Eurosport/GCN)

The 2021 Tour de France started off in the worse possible way with what was the worst mass crash in race history.

The most infamous opening day crash happened just two years ago with a sign that was seen around the world.

A fan holding a poster meant to say hello to her grandparents — the infamous opi and omi — provoked one of the most horrible high-speed mass crashes in recent Tour history. Riders fell like dominoes as the peloton buckled from the shock of the impact. One rider went down, then 10, then dozens.

Despite the horrific consequences, only three riders crashed out, and one more did not start the next day.

The woman holding the sign later went into hiding as the incident went “viral” across global media. She finally turned herself in to local police after growing pressure. Despite threats of millions of dollars of lawsuits from teams, sponsors, and race organizers, she paid a relatively minor fine.

No word if she’s back at the race this year.

1. Lance Armstrong tangles handlebars with feed bag

Perhaps the most notorious incident involving a too-close-fan came in the 2003 Tour de France with Lance Armstrong.

That year’s Tour was full of ups and downs for the now-disqualified Armstrong, who was racing that year to match the five-straight yellow jersey record held by Miguel Indurain.

Armstrong was attacking in the Pyrénées when his handlebar got tangled up with a fan holding a souvenir musette feed bag handed out by the publicity caravan.

Armstrong was whiplashed to the ground, also taking down Iban Mayo of Spain along with him. Rivals Jan Ullrich and Tyler Hamilton later slowed when they heard Armstrong crashed, who later remounted and won the stage. Those results were later disqualified as part of the USADA case.

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