Stars of the Tour de France including defending champion Chris Froome have urged fans to give riders more space as bumper crowds greeted the start of this year’s race in Yorkshire yesterday.
Froome described the atmosphere on yesterday’s opening stage as “incredible,” with an estimated 2 million spectators watching the race. He added that the crowds were “second to none,” reports the BBC.
But with the press of the crowds in some places making conditions hazardous for the riders, Froome and others have appealed for people to give participants adequate room.
His Sky team mate, Geraint Thomas, said: "It was great to race on home roads, but it is quite dangerous at times."
He added: "It was so noisy. My ears are ringing now; it was like being in a disco for four hours.
"Everyone's going on about how good it was."
The other British rider left in the race, Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Yates, said: "The only real complaint is people taking selfies in the middle of the bunch and having their back to the peloton.
"Everyone is out there having fun and a lot of people don't realise we're coming past at 60kph and we use every inch of the roads," he added.
Shortly ahead of the intermediate sprint on today’s Stage 2 from York to Sheffield, one of race leader Marcel Kittel’s Giant Shimano team mates collided with a spectator who was too far into the road. Luckily the rider stayed upright, but the episode does illustrate riders’ concerns.
Tour de France organisers ASO often reinforce to fans the importance of not hampering the riders particularly in mountain stages.
One Twitter user, @Velorunnerfitness, said however that the fans in Yorkshire paid the riders more respect than some of those seen on the Continent: “Some spectators a bit naive misjudging race speeds but compared to some idiots on Alpe d'Huez or Zoncolan they've been very respectful #TDF.”
The frustration being felt by some of the riders was clearly shown on the Holme Moss climb today, with the TV cameras catching Garmin-Sharp’s Ramūnas Navardauskas knocking cameras and phones out of the hands of fans who had got too close.
Ahead of this year’s race a number of riders including Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel, winner of yesterday’s opening stage in Harrogate, appeared in videos for organisers ASO in which fans were urged to ““Please respect the riders, protect yourself and especially your children.”
After yesterday's stage Kittel, quoted in The Times [£], “Some spectators were in the middle of the road taking pictures.”
“There were some moments when I thought, now we will crash, because the spectators were taking pictures and didn’t see that they were in the centre of the road,” he added.
Trek Factory Racing's Fabian Cancellara added: “It’s great to see such huge crowds, but the police should do something about it tomorrow because our health is in danger.
“Huge crowds are amazing for us bike riders but let’s try to keep it safe for everyone and make more space.”
The rider made a similar appeal on Twitter, his
Cancellara’s appeal, made on Twitter, resulted in some discussion on the social network, where some users agreed that fans needed to respect the race and the riders.
Twitter user @roseofwinter said: “Problem today was that people crowding the road caused splits in the peloton. Not on to potentially rob riders of their chance on GC because someone wants a closer look.”
But others defended the spectators, such as @BlazCTID, who pointed out “In France, the peleton is usually well strung out on the big climbs. The peleton was full today, need space.”
@Gkam84 said: “The problem was not the crowd, but the roads that were picked. No room for that many people,” adding that number of spectators should have been restricted on the narrower climbs.
Another user, @TwoSpareTubes, said that TV pictures made the crowding look worse than it was in person, saying “Didn't feel too bad on Grinton today.”
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom who is heading the police operation at the Grand Départ, has urged spectators to stay off the road..
“Saturday was an amazing day with unbelievable crowds and we are expecting the same again today,” he said.
“Safety remains a top priority for the police and everybody involved in organising the event, so please stay off the routes when the caravan and peloton are passing through.”
Yesterday, a teenager watching the race was taken to hospital by helicopteto be treated for serious leg injuries after being struck by a team vehicle.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.