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Massive crowds cause trouble

By Hedwig Kröner in Saint-Lary-Soulan

One trademark of the Tour de France, other than the remarkable accomplishments of the best cyclists in the world, are its huge masses of spectators that gather every year on the climbs of the Alps or the Pyrenees. All in all a peaceful crowd, some of these fans still cause trouble and damage when not observing basic principles of civil conduct.

On the 15th stage, in the heart of the Pyrenees and close to the Basque country, a crowd of about 200 Basque fans disturbed the otherwise peaceful party and threw stones at several vehicles of the Tour caravan, damaging more than one. The Spanish public television TVE, who had one vehicle vandalised, have filed a police report.

The Tour de France organisation has also repeatedly reminded cycling supporters that running beside the climbing riders can be dangerous for the athletes, for the accompanying vehicles as well as for the fans themselves. Nevertheless, an accident occurred on Sunday afternoon involving an overly excited spectator and a TV motorbike. The man ran beside Oscar Pereiro and George Hincapie in the stage finale, then stopped, not noticing that the TV motorbike was right behind him. The pilot braked, and the cameraman jumped off the bike as it fell down on top the fan. In the evening, it was not yet known if any of the involved suffered injuries.

After the stage, there was a massive traffic jam on the Pla d'Adet with the narrow mountain road blocked by three accidents, and the traffic not moving at all.

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