Tour de France crash: Former Yorkshire pro Dean Downing says fans need to respect the peloton

Fans have a responsibility to respect the peloton as much as organisers have a duty to barricade the course, as cycling looks at ways in which it can prevent a repeat of the incident that marred the opening stage of this year’s Tour de France.

France's Julian Alaphilippe, wearing the best sprinter's green jersey, Netherland's Mathieu Van Der Poel, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, and Slovenia's Tadej Pogacar, wearing the best young rider's white jersey, wait for the start of the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

That is the verdict of former professional cyclist and occasional route planner Dean Downing, following a crash on Saturday in which a spectator reached out into the road with a placard aimed at the TV cameras that caught German rider Tony Martin and brought down more than half the peloton. It was fortunate that no riders were seriously injured and that the race was able to continue, but it has led to questions about how to reduce the chances of such incidents happening again.

Downing helped plan the route for the Tour de France when it came to the region in 2014 and also worked in a similar capacity on subsequent Tours de Yorkshire But as a member of the professional peloton for 20 years, as well as a huge cycling fan, he can see all sides.

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“You cannot control who comes to watch the world’s biggest bike race,” he began.

“Last year’s Tour was very controlled, most of the crowd wore face masks and a lot of the climbs were blocked.

“This year already looks a lot different where there seems to be a hell of a lot more supporters out on the road.

“That’s the beauty of cycling, though, it’s free to attend.

“But stuff like what happened Saturday is ridiculous, it always has been in my opinion, guys and girls running up the side of the road.

France's Cyril Lemoine gets medical assistance after crashing during the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 197.8 kilometers (122.9 miles) with start in Brest and finish in Landerneau, France on Saturday. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

“The crowd need to give the riders and organisers more respect because this is something that is absolutely out of the control of organisers and riders.

“The only thing organisers would be able to do is barrier the whole 200km, and that’s not what anybody wants to see, plus the costings behind that would be astronomical.

“And it would affect the whole atmosphere. Over the years some stages become barriered further down, some stages will be barriered 3km down a climb but generally it’s 500m or 1km.

“Logistically, there’s nothing you can do. The gendarmes go through warning everybody that they’re coming, the outbound motorbikes come through, so spectators know the cyclists are right behind.

Britain's Chris Froome lays on the road after crashing during the first stage of the Tour de France (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

“It’s just one person out of the 10s of thousands who have watched that day who is not thinking about or respecting the riders. It was extraordinary.”

Dean, right, and Russ Downing ex-pro cyclists who have turned their skills to Coaching and set up Downing Cycling. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)