A Tour de France crash has sparked an international incident, prompting a hunt across borders for a woman who held up a sign and caused a massive pileup over the weekend.
GREAT TO SEE SPECTATORS BACK INVOLVED IN SPORTS EH pic.twitter.com/Kwxj8be2Qh— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 26, 2021
The incident itself is bizarre enough, but this story has taken so many twists and turns that it’s a modern sports version of a D.B. Cooper story. What happened? What does “Allez OPI OMI” mean? And what happens next?
An enthusiastic, sign-holding fan caused a massive wreck during Stage 1 of the Tour de France when she stood alongside the road holding a large cardboard sign, trying to get the attention of TV cameras. Turned away from the road, the fan didn’t notice the pack careening towards her. German cyclist Tony Martin struck the sign first, causing a chain reaction that caused a total of nine riders to fall.
The incident caused several severe injuries. One cyclist, Jasha Sütterlin, was ruled out of the remainder of the tour after suffering a large hematoma. Fans getting too close to the action has been a staple of the Tour for years, but organizers hadn’t seen anything like this before.
“It looked like a war zone,” one official told L’Equip when asked about the crash.
The hunt is on ...
Immediately following the crash a hunt began to find the fan. The Tour de France announced it planned to sue the fan for causing the accident, which resulted in lost revenue for the event. “We are suing this woman who behaved so badly,” Tour de France deputy director Pierre-Yves Thouault, told Agence France-Presse.
The difficult part was finding a random fan, and leads were slim. Some believed there might be clues in her sign, “Allez OPI OMI,” a blend of French and German which translated to “Go grandpa grandma.” The speculation was the woman was a German national, and she may have fled the country after hearing about the tour’s plans to bring legal action.
That is now the prevailing theory, and the belief is that she left France on a flight bound for Germany.
What happens now?
There are no signs the tour is backing down from a prospective lawsuit, and the hunt is now on to find the fan in Germany. There’s no word whether German authorities are willing to assist with the hunt, though it’s a complicated issue considering several Germany athletes were hurt in the crash — which could lead to greater cooperation from authorities.
It’s still unknown who the fan is, but the response has been exceedingly harsh. Yes, it was an intensely stupid decision to step on the course and hold up a sign, but there’s no indication it was done maliciously. Fans getting too close to the race has been part of the DNA of the Tour de France for decades, so it seems this fan is being used to set an example for those in the future.
UPDATE: On Wednesday officials announced that the fan had been found and arrested in Landerneau, in northwestern France.