Brest, France – The spectator behind one of the biggest pilings in the history of the Tour de France is on trial Thursday for injuring dozens of riders on the opening day of the race last June.
The 31-year-old Frenchwoman, whose identity was withheld after being the target of a torrent of online abuse, has previously told prosecutors she was ashamed of her “stupidity”.
She was hoping to be noticed by TV cameras while holding a sign that read “Come on, Opi-Omi”, using the German terms for “grandfather and granny,” a nod to her family’s German roots.
But she went too far ahead of the tight peloton as it sped along a narrow road towards the finish in Landerneau, in western France.
German runner Tony Martin couldn’t avoid hitting her and fell, forcing dozens of runners to crash as others swerved into the crowd of spectators.
Video footage of the collision and gruesome scenes of medics tending to stun or scowl the victims sparked outrage among fans and race organizers, especially when they realized the woman had fled the scene instead of stay to help.
She remained in hiding for four days before surrendering to the police.
Several riders had to withdraw from the race, including the Spaniard Marc Soler, who had both arms broken.
The women have been accused of endangering lives and causing unintentional injuries. She faces a fine of up to € 15,000 ($ 17,300) and one year in prison.
However, it seems unlikely that she will spend time behind bars, because the public prosecutor of Brest noted after her arrest on June 30 that she presented “personal vulnerabilities”.
Tour organizers, the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), had initially planned to take legal action, but later said they wanted to “calm things down” and would not be plaintiffs.
But the Swiss-based International Association of Riders (CPA) has upheld its complaint and is demanding a symbolic € 1 in damages to send a message against the dangerous behavior of fans during the stages.
“The damage suffered by runners is physical, moral and economic,” CPA President Gianni Bugno said in a statement on Wednesday.
“An athlete prepares months for a big tour and it is not acceptable that all his hard work, that of his family, his staff and his team, is shattered in an instant by the quest for popularity”, a- he declared.
His lawyer, Julien Bradmetz, declined to comment before the decision expected Thursday, although the judge may postpone the decision to a later date.
A source familiar with the matter said the lawyer could argue that the race organizers had not taken sufficient safety measures, citing the series of accidents that marked the 108th edition of the tour.
The event takes place the same day the organizers unveil the route and stages of next year’s race.
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