Tour organizers drop legal action against careless fan

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CHATEAUROUX, France — Tour de France organizers said they have dropped their legal action against a spectator who caused a massive crash on the first stage.

Organizers made the decision in a bid to defuse the situation after the careless spectator was placed in custody, race spokesperson Fabrice Tiano said on Thursday.

Gendarmes in Brittany arrested her on Wednesday, four days after the accident brought down dozens of riders and forced German rider Jasha Sutterlin to abandon the race.

The spectator brandished a large cardboard sign while leaning into the path of oncoming riders. She appeared to be looking in the other direction, apparently at a camera, and not at the approaching peloton.

The woman, not publicly identified, was arrested in the Finistere region by gendarmes who tracked her down based on accounts from people questioned this week.

Despite the Tour’s decision, local prosecutors will decide whether or not to file charges.

Tour organizers announced after the crash on the stage from Brest to Landerneau that they would start legal proceedings against the fan, who disappeared from the crash scene. She leaned into the path of veteran rider Tony Martin, whose fall had a domino effect on the peloton.

The Gendarmerie in Landerneau, east of Brest, put out a call for witnesses shortly after the pileup.

Fans gathering on the sides of roads and in villages as riders pass by is part of the tradition and charm of the Tour. The woman’s sign read “Allez Opi-Omi,” a mix of French and German-language terms of endearment for grandparents – “Go Grandpa-Grandma.”

Brest prosecutor Camille Miansoni told a press conference on Thursday that the suspect was questioned alongside her partner, who had been with her during the stage. Miansoni said she wanted to send an “affectionate message” to her grandparents, adding that the suspect’s grandmother has German origins.

At the press conference, Col. Nicolas Duvinage urged everyone to calm down on social networks after several messages calling for violence were posted on the local gendarmerie Facebook page.

“The person being accused also has personal weaknesses and it is therefore advisable not to proceed to a media lynching or on social networks,” he said.

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads

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ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”