Tour de France crash surgeon, a three-star general in Iraq and Afghanistan, likens the carnage caused by placard-holding fan to a ‘WAR ZONE with unimaginable breakage and bodies everywhere’, as police hunt for female spectator who faces a year in jail
- The on-site surgeon at the Tour de France, who worked in Iraq, described Saturday’s crash as a ‘war zone’
- Gilbert Versier has worked on the Tour for 11 years but felt it was reminiscent of the ‘moans’ and ‘chaos’ at war
- Woman had back to peloton with the sign sticking out into the road at handlebar height – causing crash
- Crash took place near town of Saint-Cadou, 30 miles from the end of race from Brest to Landerneau
- French police are hunting female spectator after causing the injuries of 21 riders in Tour de France crash
- British cyclist Chris Froome went down during incident yesterday, saying there ‘were 50 or 60’ on the ground
Saturday’s dramatic crash at the Tour de France, which left 21 riders injured, was ‘like a war zone’ with the same ‘chaos’ and ‘moans’ from those involved, according to the on-site surgeon.
Gilbert Versier has been working as an orthopaedic surgeon on the Tour for 11 years but previously served as a medical officer, a three-star general, operating out in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The crash, deemed one of the worst in Tour de France history, was caused when a female spectator had her back to the peloton with a handmade sign sticking out into the road at handlebar height.
In a split-second it caused German Tony Martin and around 50 other riders to crash. The incident caused 21 injuries, and even forced Jasha Suetterlin of Team DSM to abandon the race.
‘It looks like a war scene, the same chaos, the same moans, bodies everywhere and tangled machines,’ Versier told French daily newspaper L’Equipe.
‘You can’t imagine so much breakage. In the midst of the commotion, the runners getting up and wanting to start again, the most serious cases must be identified.
‘In general, these are the ones who are furthest from the accident site, because they have been thrown.’
British rider Chris Froome was among those caught up in the wreckage but he was able to get back on his bike on Sunday and complete stage two of the Tour de France despite being admitted to hospital on Saturday in light of the crash.
Speaking from a hospital bed on Saturday evening, Froome said: ‘In a split second there were 50 or 60 of us all on the ground.
‘I guess that’s bike racing.’
A roadside spectator (left) caused a massive crash in the Tour de France on Saturday with a banner aimed at her family
Tony Martin had nowhere to go when the supporter stepped out, looking at the TV cameras and it commenced the pile-up
The accident caused a massive blockage and saw more than 20 riders hit the deck in one of the Tour’s worst crashes
The peloton injury after crash during the 108th Tour de France 2021 with many riders left bruised and battling injuries
Tour de France surgeon Gilbert Versier (right) likened the chaos caused in the crash to a ‘war zone’ such as Afghanistan or Iraq
Versier revealed it was common to see adrenaline fuel many riders to completing the stage despite others like Swiss rider Marc Hirshi dislocating his shoulder in the pile-up.
‘The adrenaline rush is so bad that it makes them forget the pain,’ the surgeon added.
‘Even seriously affected riders, such as Spaniard Marc Soler, both elbows fractured, Briton Chris Froome, with hip and chest injuries, or Swiss Marc Hirshi, his right shoulder completely disjointed, manage to finish.’
Hirshi suffered a dislocated shoulder with acromioclavicular ligament injury, a grade 3 injury, according to UAE team doctor Jereon Swart.
But ‘after six hours sleep’ he was back ready to race on Sunday, fuelled by codeine, caffeine and paracetemol.
Prosecutors in Brittany have since launched a criminal inquiry after the unidentified female smiled to a TV camera while waving a cardboard sign with a message written in a mix of French and German to her grandparents during the first stage of the 108th Tour de France on Saturday.
A spokesman for the Finistere Gendarmerie said: ‘The spectator who caused this accident left the scene before the arrival of the investigators. Everything is being done to try and find her. She was wearing glasses and dressed in blue jeans, a red and white striped sweater, and a waxed yellow jacket.’
The massive crash took place near the summit of the Saint-Rivoal hill in the town of Saint-Cadou, some 30 miles from the end of the 123-mile race from the Atlantic port city of Brest to Landerneau at the mouth of the Elorn River, according to regional newspaper Ouest France
One of the cyclists, Swiss star Marc Hirschi, found himself thrown into the nearby hedges as he dislocated his shoulder
The crash has been labelled as one of the worst ever in the history of the Tour de France, which is in its 108th instalment
Prosecutors have opened a criminal inquiry for ‘deliberately violating safety regulations and so causing injuries that might prevent someone working for up to three months’. This is an indictable offence punishable with up to a year in prison and a fine equivalent to just under £13,000.
The massive crash took place near the summit of the Saint-Rivoal hill in the town of Saint-Cadou, some 30 miles from the end of the 123-mile race from the Atlantic port city of Brest to Landerneau at the mouth of the Elorn River, according to regional newspaper Ouest France.
Tour deputy director Pierre-Yves Thouault told AFP that he is suing the woman for ‘behaving so badly’ to ensure ‘that the tiny minority of people who do this don’t spoil the show for everyone’.
Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins said he had no sympathy for the fan involved, telling Eurosport: ‘They’re part and parcel of the spectacle of the Tour de France. And this year, in particular, being able to come back onto the route and watch it. I don’t know how you police it.’
Race director Christian Prudhomme slammed the French public for turning out in their droves and behaving ‘inadmissibly’ following the relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown, with ‘people running across the road in front of the race and children left to their own devices’.
‘You come here to see heroes,’ he told French media. ‘If you want to see yourself look in the mirror.’
Martin was the man brought down initially, left with some road rash on his left side but he got back on his bike to ride
In the wake of Saturday’s crash, an official Tour statement read: ‘We’re glad to have the public on the side of the road on the #TDF2021. But for the Tour to be a success, respect the safety of the riders! Don’t risk everything for a photo or to get on television!’
In a team press release, Mr Martin said: ‘We had everything under control until the crash. I brought the guys to the front via the right side of the road, but crashed into the sign of the spectator.
‘It all happened very quickly; suddenly almost the entire team was on the ground. Many spectators behave respectfully, but unfortunately not this one. Fortunately, Primoz came through it well. I hope the physical damage to myself and the other guys is manageable.’
Mr Thouault said that organisers had filed a complaint against the woman who could now be facing legal action from the tour.
‘This is unacceptable behaviour,’ he said.’ There are safety rules to follow. Spectators don’t cross the road, they don’t take selfies. Frankly, her attitude was insane. The show is the riders, not spectators who want to be on TV.
‘The Tour must remain a party but because of the attitude of a very small minority, it is ruined. We can no longer accept this.’
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