A fan has once again made an impact on the Tour de France for all the wrong reasons.
In the case of Sunday, with riders racing in the 15th of 21 stages, a fan's arm got in the way of American rider Sepp Kuss, who immediately crashed, caused several riders behind him to crash and delayed dozens of others in the peloton.
Subsequent replay showed the fan appeared to be holding out a cellphone over the race surface, to either record the peloton as it passed or take a selfie.
— NBC Sports Cycling (@NBCSCycling) July 16, 2023
The race was fortunately resumed without further incident. Dutch veteran Wout Poels rode to a solo victory for the first stage win of his career at the age of 35, while defending champion Jonas Vingegaard remained in the lead with last year's runner-up Tadej Pogačar 10 seconds behind him.
Once the stage was finished, several riders and teams issued public requests that fans exercise more self-awareness while spectating a sport where so much can go so wrong so quickly.
Vingegaard issued a series of reasonable requests:
"Act nice on the side of the road. Don't get on the road, don't punch the riders. Be there and watch the race. You don't have to get on the road or pour beer on us or whatever. Just have fun watching the race instead of doing some stupid things like that."
Pogačar emphasized how important spectators are for the atmosphere of the Tour de France, and the potential danger if they end up in the wrong place:
"We really love spectators and fans. They come from all the countries and it's incredible to see how many of them are on the roads through all the stages. Try to be a bit careful looking on the road where you stand and look at the riders, not the helicopters and the phones. Enjoy the moment when we pass through. I just wish everyone can stay safe because sometimes it's really dangerous on the flat sections and downhills. It can be a disaster."
The INEOS Grenadiers team noted one of their own, Egan Bernal, was involved in the crash but was OK before asking fans give riders the room they need.
A big crash in the bunch there, with @Eganbernal amongst the riders who were brought down.
Happily he's quickly back up and pacing his way back to the bunch.
If you are spectating at this amazing event, please give the riders room to race #TDF2023 pic.twitter.com/08pJrmmnCX
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) July 16, 2023
Team Cofidis had a more forceful statement in French, which roughly translated to:
"Please be careful, so the party remains a party for the riders, but also for you. You don't need a cellphone to create mind-blowing memories."
This is hardly the first, or the second, time fans have gotten too involved at the Tour de France.
The whole thing was reminiscent of another incident two years ago, in which a woman held out a sign for a picture and caused a massive crash in the opening stage of the 2021 event. That incident triggered a manhunt for the woman, who remains publicly unidentified, and eventually led to a conviction in French court for reckless endangerment and involuntarily causing injuries.
It's unclear if similar consequences await the owner of that phone, but Sunday will still be another reminder of how easily things can go bad in a race that often has fans with an arm's reach of the action, literally.