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Hat-Tossing Paris-Roubaix Spectator Will Face “Action”

121st paris roubaix 2024
Hat-Tossing Spectator Will Face “ActAlex Broadway - Getty Images

Amid all the action of the men’s Paris-Roubaix race, one moment that stood out as odd and troubling was when a spectator seemed to toss a cap directly toward Mathieu Van der Poel’s wheels. The moment came with around 42 km. to go, when the Dutchman already had a significant lead.

Footage of the roadside spectator clearly shows the entire incident on the Mérignies à Avelin sector. What’s perhaps most frightening about the moment is that van der Poel was barreling down the cobbles at around 48 km. per hour (29.8 mph). If the cap had gotten tangled in his bike it could have been disastrous.

The Union Nationale des Cyclistes Professionnels (UNCP) are the French members of the CPA (Cyclistes Professionnels Associés). Because the race was on French soil, they are responsible for alerting local authorities.

CPA president Adam Hansen told GCN that they would use the national federations to take the person to court.

“The CPA can’t do it because we’re a Swiss organization but our members, so in this case the French association, the UNCP, can take the individual to court. They’ll file their report to the local authorities and they’ll do a full investigation. We’ll find that person, that’s for sure.”

GCN reported that, “The CPA and UNCP also have a historical track record of finding spectators who have caused incidents and pursuing them in civil courts. A spectator who caused a huge crash at the Tour de France in 2021 was fined €1,200 by a French court and forced to pay a token €1 to the UNCP.”

Road.cc reported that in an interview after the race, van der Poel said he had felt like “something white” had hit him. “Apparently not everyone likes me riding in the lead. But I don’t care,” he added.

Van der Poel has frequently been the target of roadside disobedience. Last week at Flanders he had a beer thrown at him. And during his cyclocross season he endured incessant boos from the crowds. So much so that he’s retaliated back at times.

Luckily nothing tragic happened because of this incident. But it’s a good reminder that no matter how passionate you are about racing, just about everything is captured and made public. So it’s best to be respectful, if for no other reason than the fact that you will be caught.

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