D.he woman – raincoat, cap, sunglasses – who will leave a trail of blood through the peloton, patiently waits for the peloton, which is bustling on the first leg from Brest to Landerneau – the self-made sign with the words “Allez Omi Opi” in her hand. The field of drivers fanned out across the entire width of the street is approaching, the helicopter of French television has already announced it from afar. What follows has since been shown endlessly in slow motion on television and on the Internet. And it brought the viewer an enormous wave of bitter bad messages.
So she gets ready on the side of the road. For their appearance, which was not meant to be bad, but ended badly. Took half a step on the asphalt, stretched the sign, snapped on photo smiles – all of this to put yourself in the limelight for the television picture broadcast in 190 countries. Because the woman does not look at the approaching field of 184 drivers, but at the camera motorcycle driving ahead.
Experience is also of no use
In the direction of travel on the far right, Tony Martin has just moved to the top of the peloton. A successful and experienced German professional. It is not unusual for drivers to have an arm, a mobile phone camera or a sign sticking out onto the road. The fans are pulling back in time. In any case, Martin notices the sign in front of his chest and assumes that it will disappear again in a moment. But it doesn’t. Martin collides with the cardboard, falls, the viewer makes a kind of pirouette in the ditch under the force of Martin’s impact.
Jonas Rutsch, also a German tour participant, drove further back in the field at that moment. He knows from experience that mass falls like this are heralded by the “squeaking of tires and brakes”. “The next moment it rattles horribly.” And immediately the screams of pain from the drivers concerned, the screams of the spectators and the calls of the supervisors hurrying up from the support vehicles mix into a monstrous noise. The athletes feel their wounds – just bruised or broken? Contorted or just mined? Where is my bike and is it still intact? There is chaos. Drivers pull themselves up bleeding, and in no time follow their instinct, which says: get up, get back on the bike, don’t miss the boat.
Cycling lives from the epic scenes when the racing drivers conquer the steepest mountain passes through a narrow line of spectators. A trellis that only billows apart at the last moment in front of the front wheel of the cyclists arriving individually or in small groups, exposing a narrow aisle in order to contract again behind it. Like a finely tuned, recurring choreography of the fans who shout cheers in the ears of the drivers who climb with a pulse of 190. But even on flat sections of the route, there are crowds of spectators at the roadside at the world’s largest and most important cycle race. It is celebrated when the tour caravan comes, with friends, family, often with baguette and red wine. Even if the experience of letting a tightly packed peloton rush by on the plain is sometimes only a few seconds long. Hundreds of thousands of such encounters at close range go well during a Tour de France. Except this time.