The Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA) is suing the spectator who caused a mass crash on the opening stage of this year's Tour de France to the tune of €1, in what it describes as a "symbolic" lawsuit.
The spectator, who sparked a crash that brought around 50 riders down when she leant into the road holding a sign reading 'Allez Opi-Omi', will appear in court on Thursday in France, the same day the route of the 2022 Tour de France is unveiled.
She is the subject of a criminal prosecution that could result in a prison sentence but will also face a civil claim on the part of the CPA.
Following reports of its intention to pursue damages, the most prominent riders' union issued a statement on Wednesday to confirm that is still taking legal action, but only to try and make a point and raise awareness about rider safety.
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"The task of a trade union is to defend its members, which explains the position of the CPA, which has taken on this case not for compensation but to raise awareness of the need to respect athletes in the performance of their profession," read the statement.
"With this gesture the CPA wants to draw attention to a responsible and respectful attitude towards riders in the performance of their profession. Fans, but more generally all those who pass them while they are training or competing, must behave appropriately. The images of the 'fan in yellow' have gone around the world and should be a warning that such episodes will never happen again."
The crash caused around 50 riders to crash, with many suffering injuries that had consequences on their performance at the Tour de France.
Cyril Lemoine, Jasha Sütterlin, and Ignatas Konovalovas were all immediately forced out of the race through injury, while Marc Soler finished the stage but was diagnosed with two broken arms and did not start the next one. Tony Martin, the rider who collided with the spectator, struggled through the following week but was taken out of the race by another crash.
"The damage suffered by the riders is physical, moral and economic. An athlete prepares months for a grand tour and it is not acceptable that all his hard work, that of his family, his staff and his team should be shattered in an instant by the quest for popularity of those who should attend the event without becoming the protagonist," said CPA president Gianni Bugno.
"We are sure that the spectator did not intentionally want to harm anyone, but with her carelessness she compromised the health and the season of more than one of our members. The one euro compensation we have asked for does not pay for the fracture of both arms of Marc Soler nor for the consequences suffered by Tony Martin and the other riders who ended up on the ground, but it has a symbolic value."
Following the incident, the local police force opened an investigation and appealed for witnesses and for the spectator to come forward.
Four days later, she reportedly turned herself into police custody and was charged with two offences, the first being 'endangering others through a manifestly deliberate violation of a duty of prudence or safety' and, as a consequence, 'involuntarily causing injuries that lead to an inability to work for up to three months'.
That case will be heard on Thursday and, according to Ouest France, she faces a fine of up to €15,000 and a one-year prison sentence.
The organisers of the Tour de France had initially stated their intention to pursue civil damages but soon decided not to proceed.
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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