The 10th stage of the Tour de France was halted for 10 minutes on Tuesday after half a dozen climate activists tried to stop riders on the road before being pulled out of the way by police and a senior organisers’ official.
The activists, one of them wearing a t-shirt which said “We have 989 days left,” sat on the road some 36 kilometres (22 miles) from the finish in Megeve, a Reuters witness said.
The activists were pulled off the road by police, helped by Tour organisers’ Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) general director Yann Le Moenner.
ASO declined to comment on that specific incident when contacted by Reuters. Later, Tour director Christian Prudhomme said: “These things [protests] happen, it’s the ransom of success.”
Stage leader Alberto Bettiol rode through a cloud of pink from a flare before being asked by a race official to get off his bike just before organisers said the stage had been stopped.
Ten minutes later, race director Christian Prudhomme ordered racing to resume.
“Since the government doesn’t care about the climate crisis, we need to come and take over the Tour de France to refocus attention on what matters for our survival,” climate activists movement Derniere Renovation said in a statement.
“We need to make our government react as they lead us to the slaughterhouse.”
At last month’s French Open tennis, an activist from Derniere Renovation interrupted the men’s semifinal between Marin Cilic of Croatia and Norwegian Casper Ruud when she jumped onto the court and tied herself to the net, wearing a t-shirt saying “We have 1,028 days left”.
Some riders condemned the protesters, including Lotto Soudal’s Philippe Gilbert who told reporters: “It’s a bit surprising.
“At first I saw some smoke and I thought it’s not very smart because it’s forbidden but then there was more and I thought the worst had happened, like someone, a kid, had been run over by a car.
“It’s a bit disappointing because there are other ways to protest. I hope they will be punished in proportion to their stupidity.”
American Quinn Simmons of Trek-Segafredo said: “It’s a bit of a shame. You would think that with so many police at a bike race they would be able to keep the course clear for us.
“I guess I should be careful what I say about protesting or there might be another incident.”
Simmons was suspended for six weeks by his Trek Segafredo team in 2020 after posting controversial comments in response to a tweet about former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Others, like Slovenia’s yellow jersey holder Tadej Pogacar, were amused.
“In the radio we heard there were some people on the road and we had to stop so we just did that and we heard that the police were taking the guys,” he said. “It was a funny moment.”
Magnus Cort Nielsen won a two-man sprint in a photo-finish to claim the 10th stage of the Tour de France while Tadej Pogacar retains the yellow jersey.