Driver crashes Tour finish line

Four injured in bizarre accident

Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2001

COLMAR, France -- A man plowed his car into a crowd at the finish line after he had been stopped from meeting the Tour de France stage winner on Bastille Day. Four people were injured, one seriously, race officials said.

The driver was denied entry at an area for accredited personnel when he tried to greet French star Laurent Jalabert following his victory, officials said.

He returned to his car, then drove at high speed and smashed through several barriers into a group of people, said Patrice Clerc, president of A.S.O, the company that owns the Tour.

''Some people could not avoid him,'' Clerc said.

An unidentified woman was hospitalized with two broken legs and head trauma, organizers said. She was thrown in the air by the car and landed on her head, momentarily losing consciousness.

Two police officers were injured, one with a broken leg, and a Tour employee injured a knee.

The driver, who was not identified, was in police custody, Clerc said.

The mayhem occurred at the end of the seventh stage between Strasbourg and this picturesque town near the German border.

French fans were celebrating on their national holiday when a man ''not in control of his emotions'' disrupted the finish, about 30 minutes after all the riders were done racing, Clerc said.

Jalabert completed the 101-mile leg in 4 hours, 6 minutes, 4 seconds. Two-time defending champion Lance Armstrong was 4:28 behind but remained 15th overall. He retained a 27-second advantage over his main rival, Germany's Jan Ullrich.

Germany's Jens Voigt was second and France's Laurent Roux was third. Voigt, who rides for Credit Agricole, took the leader's yellow jersey from teammate Stuart O'Grady.

This was Jalabert's second stage victory of this year's Tour. He also won a stage on Bastille Day in 1995.

The CSC-Tiscali rider broke three ribs in February when he fell off a ladder while changing a light bulb at his home in Geneva. He was unable to ride for two months.

Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team was reduced to eight men when Christian Vande Velde quit the race after crashing and breaking his left forearm in a slippery downhill stretch in the Vosges mountains.

He was to leave the hospital Saturday and spend the night in his team hotel in Kaysersberg, team spokeswoman Sophie Boulet said. She described Armstrong as ''very unhappy'' about what happened.

Vande Velde, riding in his second Tour de France, was 58th in the standings at the start of Saturday's stage. The American crashed two days ago in the team time trial.

Twelve cyclists have abandoned the Tour in its first week, leaving 177 riders in the race.

Forty-four riders underwent random blood tests Saturday to detect possible drug use. The International Cycling Union said there were no failures.

Sunday's stage is a 138-mile route from Colmar to Pontarlier near the Swiss border. The 20-stage Tour ends July 29 in Paris.

Last year, a 12-year-old boy watching Tour de France cyclists died after he was hit by a publicity caravan, prompting organizers to strengthen road safety measures.

Tens of thousands of people line the route every day. Scores of accredited vehicles drive on the route, where access is tightly controlled. Metal barriers are set up at most intersections.

The chaos at the finish recalled a scene after the 1998 World Cup final in Paris. An apparently panicked driver surged into a group of jubilant soccer fans, killing one person and injuring about 80.



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