Tour de France selfies a 'pain in the arse' for riders in Yorkshire

Jul 7, 2014

Up to five million fans turn out to cheer riders as the opening weekend of Le Tour takes place in England


The opening two stages of the Tour de France in Yorkshire this weekend attracted as many as five million spectators, say organisers, but some riders have warned that the current obsession with taking 'selfies' is putting them at risk.

The Grand Depart has been a huge success, but British fans, unused to watching road races, have been straying too far into the path of the peloton in order to try and get a photo with the cyclists in the background, claim several riders. And although the massive support has been well received by the competitors, there have been some crashes as a result.

British Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas said he had "goosebumps" on part of the route thanks to the sheer level of support, but he also described selfie-taking fans as "the new pain in the arse" for the Tour. "They don’t realise we use every part of the road. They are a lot of us and we use every inch," he said. "There's not much racing on British roads and people don’t understand how fast we’re going and how close we get."

Not everyone was as understanding. "As the riders went through Ripponden, the Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas was seen angrily swiping at anyone who got too close. The Tour second favourite, Alberto Contador, who finished in the bunch behind the winner Vincenzo Nibali, called it 'a very risky day'," reports The Guardian.

American BMC rider Tejay van Garderen called the craze for selfies "a dangerous mix of vanity and stupidity" on Twitter.

In the race itself the yellow jersey will be worn by Vicenzo Nibali for today's third stage from Cambridge to London, although the Italian's lead over the chasing pack, including reigning champion Chris Froome, is just two seconds.

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford likened the cut and thrust of the second stage from York to Sheffield to the "initial jabs" of a boxing match, but The Times says fans were given "an authentic taste of the drama" of the race. The most significant action took place in Sheffield where, with five kilometres go, Contator mounted his first attack of the Tour, only to be reeled in by defending champion Froome as the crowds lining the roadside roared him on.

For such drama to play out in suburban Sheffield seemed slightly incongruous, notes the Times. "The great climbs of the Tour all have their landmarks: the memorial to Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux, the statue of Octave Lapize gasping for air as he reaches the summit of the Col du Tourmalet. On the short climb up Jenkin Road yesterday, the action among the leading group intensified when they went past the off-licence... [And] just for a few minutes, this down-at-heel corner of Sheffield had been transformed into a throbbing sporting arena."

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