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“Respect the riders”: Pello Bilbao receives “outrageous” warning after punching spectator during Tour de France stage

The Bahrain Victorious rider hit out at a fan running alongside the breakaway on the Col de la Loze yesterday

Pello Bilbao was issued a warning by the UCI race jury last night, after the Basque rider was caught on camera punching a spectator who appeared to block his path while running alongside the breakaway on the Col de la Loze yesterday.

The Bahrain Victorious all-rounder, who is currently sitting in sixth place on GC at this year’s Tour, was part of a small chasing group with David Gaudu and Chris Harper – about a minute behind eventual stage winner Felix Gall – approaching the summit of the HC-rated mountain when a fan, trying to run on the road beside the riders, seemed to impede his progress.

Bilbao could then be clearly seen lashing out at the spectator, knocking the man’s hat from his head as he vented his frustration.

Following the stage, Bilbao’s retaliatory swipe earned him a place on the UCI’s nightly list of race jury decisions, as he received a warning for “inappropriate behaviour (towards a spectator)”. The 33-year-old was served an “official notice”, but didn’t receive any kind of fine or further punishment for his actions.

> “This is like Ventoux all over again”: Thomas Voeckler excluded from Tour de France stage after motorbike chaos on Col de la Loze holds up Jonas Vingegaard

His run-in with the fan wasn’t the Bahrain Victorious rider’s only pulse-quickening, surreal moment on the Col de la Loze. Just moments after the brief altercation, Bilbao, Gaudu, and Harper were forced to squeeze their way past a traffic jam after a motorbike – carrying former Tour yellow jersey and King of the Mountains-turned pundit Tommy Voeckler – stalled on a steep bend.

Voeckler and his moto pilot – whose impromptu stop on the road forced yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard to briefly unclip – also appeared on the jury’s list, receiving a 500 Swiss Franc fine each and a one-day suspension from the Tour for their troubles.

But it’s the UCI’s decision to warn Bilbao for reprimanding a fan encroaching into the riders’ space that has caused something of a backlash on social media, with one fan describing the sanction as “outrageous”.

“That is not aggression – with his heart at 200 and at the limit of his strength, someone jumps into his path and breaks up his rhythm, Pello Bilbao acts correctly,” another Spanish viewer added. “The Tour covers up its poor organisation by admonishing the athlete. Respect the riders.”

> Selfie-taking spectator causes huge crash at Tour de France

The online defence of Bilbao, and the criticism of the fan’s actions, isn’t a surprise, coming as it does just days after a selfie-taking spectator struck Sepp Kuss with his arm, causing a massive pile-up in the peloton and injuring several riders.

Kuss’ Jumbo-Visma team have since threatened to press charges against the spectator, with sports director Arthur van Dongen claiming the team had suffered “enormously large” material damage and that they would “certainly try to recover the expenses from that person”.

“I think we owe that to the riders who were on the ground. Not only ours, but also those of other teams,” added team boss Richard Plugge. “It’s really nice that the public is standing by the side and cheering us on. We’re very happy with that, but just keep your distance. I think it’s very important that we send a strong signal for once.”

Spectator causes crash on stage 15, 2023 Tour de France (GCN)

> Jumbo-Visma willing to sue Tour de France spectator who caused huge crash while taking selfie

Earlier in this year’s Tour, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Jordi Meeus was struck on the shoulder by a fan leaning over the barriers to attempt to film a sprint finish on their phone, while TotalEnergies’ Steff Cras was forced to abandon the race a day later due to what he claimed was a crash caused by fans spilling onto the road.

Then, on stage 13, Lilian Calmejane was brought down by a homemade washing line of cycling tops, put together in tribute to French hero Raymond Poulidor and held together by two flimsy poles, which snapped and fell into his path.

> Spectators cause two crashes in two days at Tour de France, Steff Cras forced to leave and blasts them saying "you have no respect"

Bilbao’s warning for striking the spectator, then, isn’t likely to remove too much gloss from what has been a very successful Tour. After an underwhelming start in his home region, the Basque rider took an emotional victory from the breakaway on stage 10, outsprinting Georg Zimmermann at the end of an anarchic day in the Massif Central.

The 33-year-old Basque climber’s tactical nous not only netted him his long-awaited first ever win at the Tour – which he dedicated to Bahrain Victorious teammate and friend Gino Mäder, who died following a crash at last month’s Tour de Suisse – but also saw him vault up the GC, a position he has retained as the race approaches its finale in Paris on Sunday.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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Paul J | 12 months ago
1 like

As per my comment on the other story with that quote from Plugge "materiaal" in dutch == "equipment" in this context. So "material damage" is a poor/unidiomatic translation almost certainly. You should change it to "equipment damage".

andystow | 12 months ago

The fans are lucky that The Badger isn't still racing.

PRSboy | 12 months ago

The fans seem to have been particularly intrusive this year, far more interested in their moment on social media than the racing.  

Flares etc particularly dangerous, given that the dry landscape there is like a tinderbox.

Mungecrundle | 12 months ago

Maybe some kind of Boudica inspired chariot going up ahead of the riders might persuade the fans to step back to a distance where everyone will get a far better view of the racers as they pass.

Fignon's ghost | 12 months ago

Good job. 👍

There are new and more dangerous behaviours going down in the mountain crowd. Too many liquored up dickheads with their own messages or motives to promote on live camera. There's also a new fascination in throwing glitter onto passing riders.

Personally. I think riders should be allowed to tazer the idiots.

newtonuk | 12 months ago

Good for him, the crowd has been ridiculous this year, and if he had have been fined I would have chipped in a fiver! There should be a tractor with a big rotating flail driving ahead of the riders ensuring that the road is clear.


Rendel Harris | 12 months ago

Same rules apply as those that (should) apply to cars: if you were close enough for the rider to hit you, you were de facto too close. Don't be a dick and you'll be fine. Nothing but sympathy for the riders, nothing but contempt for the "fans" who are more interested in getting on the telly than supporting the race.

Offwood | 12 months ago

I'm surprised more riders haven't been hitting fans this year. Some of these people are morons. Anyone who lights a flare needs throwing off the mountain. 

ErnieC replied to Offwood | 12 months ago
Offwood wrote:

I'm surprised more riders haven't been hitting fans this year. Some of these people are morons. Anyone who lights a flare needs throwing off the mountain. 

or throwing down a well with said flare stuck where there is no solar activity. 

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