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Paris-Roubaix spectator's lawyer insists "never any intention to harm" to Mathieu van der Poel and confirms she has contacted riders' union

The Belgian woman, a regular Paris-Roubaix spectator and Van der Poel fan, says it was never her intention to “harm” the world champion, and that she has contacted the riders’ union, which said it would take action

After the CPA riders’ union promised to take “action” against a spectator who threw a cap at Mathieu van der Poel’s bike as he powered to victory at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, the spectator in question – a VIP guest at the race – and her lawyers have now spoken to the Belgian media, confirming that they have contacted the riders’ union and that there was “never any intention to harm” or sabotage the world champion.

Television cameras captured the moment a roadside spectator threw the cap at Van der Poel's Canyon on the Mérignies à Avelin sector with 42km to go, the Dutch rider thundering over the cobbles at 48km/h (29.8mph) when a white cap was seen thrown towards the eventual race winner, risking causing a crash or mechanical had it got trapped in his wheels or drivetrain.

Speaking to Dutch broadcaster NOS afterwards, 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.

Once footage was shared on social media, the CPA riders' union president, Adam Hansen, confirmed: "Yes, we take action against them". He explained that the French department of the organisation would handle the case, the same body that successfully took the Tour de France spectator who caused the 'Allez Opi-Omi' crash to court, winning a symbolic €1 compensation.

Tour de France spectator with placard

Bizarrely, as we noted earlier this week, the lack of identification of the woman involved in the Paris-Roubaix incident led some online to make comparisons between Sunday's spectator and the 'Allez Opi-Omi' lady, questioning if their vague likeness in blurry TV pictures should be considered.

However, Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad soon reported that she was instead a corporate guest at a VIP tent where various companies had invited clients.

"We have been organising that day for 16 years," Olivier Orlans of Eventor said, the company that organised the corporate hospitality. "When we saw the images, we did not think the woman was part of our party. She didn't have a badge to get in and out of our tent. But we did investigate and asked all our customers if they knew the lady in question."

It was discovered she was a guest of a company and is said to be a fan of Van der Poel, a strange revelation but one the Belgian newspaper suggests may indicate that her action was not malicious, and perhaps just ill-advised. The company whose guest the woman was also said she would "turn herself in".

"If it was deliberate, then as an organisation we obviously find that scandalous, but everyone has the benefit of the doubt. It is now up to the woman in question to tell her story," Orlans concluded.

Mathieu van der Poel cap incident at Paris-Roubaix 2024 (Eurosport/Discovery+)

That story is now starting to be told, at least partially, after the woman contacted Het Nieuwsblad yesterday to confirm her identity and claim that she is now “caught up in a storm” thanks to an “unfortunate” manoeuvre, fuelled by an afternoon’s worth of aperitifs.

According to the Belgian newspaper, the spectator – from Flanders and a regular Paris-Roubaix roadside fan – confirmed on the phone that she is the woman captured in the images throwing the white cap, an action she denies was taken “consciously”.

“If there are any complaints, I will take responsibility. I don't want to waste more words on this in the media,” she said from a purportedly planned holiday abroad, with friends emphasising that this week’s trip was planned and not a reaction to the “commotion or fuss” surrounding her at home.

Meanwhile, the woman’s lawyer says they have already contacted the French professional cyclists’ union (UNCP).

“We have already contacted them,” the lawyer said. “That happened this week. We have taken the step. In that message, my client identified herself and clarified that she is the woman seen in the images.

“She has also indicated that she is open to a conversation and that she would like to provide the union with an explanation about what happened there. She likes to explain everything. We are now waiting for a response.”

The lawyer, who also added that his client is a Van der Poel fan, continued: “It was clearly never my client's intention to harm the rider in question, let alone that she wanted to bring him down. No sane person would do something like that, right?”

When asked why the cap ended up on the cobbles, he said: ““My client would like to keep that explanation for the discussion with the riders' association. She can explain this to them in person. But she doesn't want to have that conversation in the media.”

Matthieu van der Poel at Paris Roubaix 2024 (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

World champion Van der Poel has long been the target of roadside antagonism, with reports of spectators booing and throwing beer at him throughout this classics season. In December, as the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider dominated his way to a seventh straight cyclocross victory, he was seen spitting at spectators at the UCI World Cup in Hulst. The 29-year-old was fined by the UCI over his conduct but said he is "a bit fed up with being booed every week" and appeared to retweet a social media post suggesting the fans had even thrown beer or urine at him during the race.

The latest CPA action follows on from similar steps following last weekend's Tour of Flanders, cases filed against spectators who allegedly threw beer at Van der Poel. The Flemish police said that while the incidents had not been seen by officers, TV footage provided an opportunity to identify suspects.

"The charges will be severe: assault and battery. We're determined to push this as far as we can, sending a clear message that such behaviour is totally unacceptable," the force told Het Laatste Nieuws.

> Josh Tarling disqualified from Paris-Roubaix for taking tow from team car

The Roubaix incident was discussed by Eurosport's punditry team following the race, Adam Blythe warning that it "could have ended his season".

Presenter Orla Chennaoui added that taking action is "quite frankly the only way" as "fans, halfwits as you call them, have to realise there are cameras by the side of the road and if you do something like that, chances are you will be identified and prosecutions are entirely possible".

"It seems like a really good step," Dan Lloyd agreed. "It's such a small minority that could potentially spoil things for the rest. I don't think they are going to barrier the entire length of the 57 kilometres of cobbles each year but they might do something to make fans stand further back so that they can't impede the riders.

"That would just spoil it for everyone because one of the great parts of this sport is that you can get so up close and personal."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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29 comments

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check12 | 1 month ago
0 likes

🫥

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don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

I like that the conversation is being kept private and out of the hands of the press. Nothing to base the bullshit on...

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brooksby | 1 month ago
5 likes

"…and will turn herself in"

Soooo - hasn't turned herself in yet

and - "corporate VIP guest" could be taken as a euphemism for "very very drunk".

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wtjs | 1 month ago
5 likes

I can't understand this antipathy (maybe it's only a tiny band of nutters?) to VdP. He's pretty local and a fantastic athlete, and I don't seem to have heard any sensible criticisms of him.

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Secret_squirrel replied to wtjs | 1 month ago
1 like

Racism?  The Dutch-Flemish-French axis can get quite emotional...

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Rendel Harris replied to wtjs | 1 month ago
3 likes
wtjs wrote:

I can't understand this antipathy (maybe it's only a tiny band of nutters?) to VdP. He's pretty local and a fantastic athlete, and I don't seem to have heard any sensible criticisms of him.

There's a fair bit of idiotic nationalism involved from a thankfully small minority of spectators: some French fans feel that being half French and grandson of their hero Poulidor he should owe allegiance to them, some Dutch fans don't like him for being half French and growing up in Belgium, even some Belgian fans feel that as he grew up in Belgium he ought to be racing for them. Every country has its share of morons...

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Paul J replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
2 likes

Yeah, some Belgians consider him a traitor. He didn't just grow up in Vlaanderen, he was born there, grew up there, has lived his whole life there (AFAIK) - and still does.

Not sure why the French could be against him, he's the most French winner they've had since the last actual French winner! Speaks perfect French I think, with a dutch accent.

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bobbinogs replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
5 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

There's a fair bit of idiotic nationalism involved from a thankfully small minority of spectators: some French fans feel that being half French and grandson of their hero Poulidor he should owe allegiance to them, some Dutch fans don't like him for being half French and growing up in Belgium, even some Belgian fans feel that as he grew up in Belgium he ought to be racing for them. Every country has its share of morons...

I feel very proud that, when it comes to morons, Britain still leads the World!

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billymansell | 1 month ago
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Het Nieuwsblad reporting woman who threw cap was in the VIP area and is going to turn herself in; https://bityl.co/PFQf

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IanGlasgow replied to billymansell | 1 month ago
0 likes

And they're covering Sunak's Adidas Sambas (but no mention of Josh Barrie's Velosambas)
 

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don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
4 likes

Hit them with big fines or jail time (if allowed), nip this shite in the bud and keep cycling accessible.

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stonojnr replied to don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

As per the Allez Opi Omi case French law allows for that to happen. She was actually fined 1200 Euros, the 1 Euro part was simply symbolic damages to give to the French cycling union, but prosecutors had asked for 4month suspended sentence, and she obviously had the it wasn't intentional or deliberately done excuse.

But its upto 15,000 euro fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

Assuming they can locate her of course, though maybe the gendarmes are better at that stuff than the Met.

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EddyBerckx replied to stonojnr | 1 month ago
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stonojnr wrote:

As per the Allez Opi Omi case French law allows for that to happen. She was actually fined 1200 Euros, the 1 Euro part was simply symbolic damages to give to the French cycling union, but prosecutors had asked for 4month suspended sentence, and she obviously had the it wasn't intentional or deliberately done. But its upto 15,000 euro fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment. Assuming they can locate her of course, though maybe the gendarmes are better at that stuff than the Met.

That case was a genuine accident though which was probably why she got let off so lightly.

This is potentially much worse...I'm literally trying to figure out if there is any doubt here? Such an insane thing to do with witnesses and camers everywhere. It's one of the most famous cyclists in the world in one of the most revered races...crazyness.

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wtjs replied to EddyBerckx | 1 month ago
6 likes

That case was a genuine accident though

I'm strongly opposed to that excuse- it validates the 'I didn't see him and I didn't mean to do it' dodge so beloved of the police.

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KDee replied to wtjs | 1 month ago
4 likes

Exactly. She intentionally  stood in front of the oncoming peloton for her 5 seconds of fame. Stupidity and selfishness is not a defence.

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stonojnr replied to EddyBerckx | 1 month ago
0 likes

That's why the penalty can go upto 15000 Euros or a year in gaol

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don simon fbpe replied to stonojnr | 1 month ago
1 like
stonojnr wrote:

As per the Allez Opi Omi case French law allows for that to happen. She was actually fined 1200 Euros, the 1 Euro part was simply symbolic damages to give to the French cycling union, but prosecutors had asked for 4month suspended sentence, and she obviously had the it wasn't intentional or deliberately done excuse. But its upto 15,000 euro fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment. Assuming they can locate her of course, though maybe the gendarmes are better at that stuff than the Met.

What did she think could/might happen when standing on the circuit?

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john_smith replied to don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

Presumably nothing, since, in her mind, the riders were a safe distance away.

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don simon fbpe replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
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Until they hit her.

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john_smith replied to don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

They did?

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KDee replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
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Yes, one rider (Roglic I think) caught her left arm as she was holding out her stupid sign. He then brought down a bunch of other riders as he hit the deck. Just search for it on YouTube. 

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Rendel Harris replied to KDee | 1 month ago
0 likes
KDee wrote:

Yes, one rider (Roglic I think) caught her left arm as she was holding out her stupid sign. He then brought down a bunch of other riders as he hit the deck.

Tony Martin went into her sign headfirst IIRC, but the rest of the Jumbo Visma team were directly behind him and they all went down, including Roglic, followed by most of the rest of the peloton.

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john_smith replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
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I found the behaviour of the gentleman who took out Guiseppe Guerini a lot worse, even if the outcome was less spectacular.

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don simon fbpe replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
0 likes
john_smith wrote:

I found the behaviour of the gentleman who took out Guiseppe Guerini a lot worse, even if the outcome was less spectacular.

At least he helped Guiseppe back on his bike and gave him a push, not all bad.

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john_smith replied to don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

Agreed, I'm sure he meant no harm. But literally standing in the middle of the road (or very close to it) takes some beating. 

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don simon fbpe replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
6 likes

You can't stand in the middle of the road and not expect there to be consequences, not unless you thought that Brexit was a good idea. That's a special kind of stupid.

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KDee replied to Rendel Harris | 1 month ago
1 like

Good memory! 

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don simon fbpe replied to john_smith | 1 month ago
0 likes
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stonojnr replied to don simon fbpe | 1 month ago
0 likes

I've no idea, but I'd imagine her defence tried to claim the resulting crash wasnt the intentional outcome on her part.

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