A crazy fan almost causes havoc at Saint Jean de Maurienne during Stage 19 of the 2015 Tour de France

(#09 – Top 10 Highlights from 2015 Tour de Travoy) The photo above shows a crazy spectator trying to slap Alberto Contador as he cycles past at the start of the final climb of Stage 19 in the 2015 Tour de France.  This incident happened just opposite where myself and my brother Noel were standing. As I was filming at the time, I didn’t notice it but Noel did. Fortunately, the fan didn’t make much contact with Contador as he could easily have have knocked him off his bike. It was only later when reviewing my photos from the day that I noticed that the same fan had also tried to slap Chris Froome about 20 seconds earlier. However, his behaviour was spotted by a local policeman who had a word with him after most of the cyclists had gone past. Hopefully, if he is ever at a race in the future, he will be much calmer as the cyclists in the Tour de France have enough to deal with without also being slapped by crazy fans.

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Sign at roundabout in Saint Jean de Maurienne. Stage 19 of the 2015 Tour de France was due to start in Saint Jean de Maurienne on Friday morning and also pass through the same town later that afternoon. The day before on the Thursday, I had met up with Noel in Grenoble after he got a flight from Dublin to Lyon and then a bus from Lyon to Grenoble. We had hired a car for the week-end with the aim of seeing the Tour de France in Saint Jean de Maurienne on the Friday and Alpe d’Huez on the Saturday. On Friday morning, it only took us about an hour or so to drive from Grenoble to St. Jean de Maurienne though as soon as we arrived there, we had to park up in the suburbs and then walk about 3 km into the town centre, due to traffic jams.

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Signing-on stage at Saint Jean de Maurienne. After watching the cavalcade go by, we went into the town centre to where the riders were signing on. Every day on the Tour de France, for about an hour before the start of that day’s stage, French TV show the riders signing in live on TV.

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Ireland’s Nicholas Roche of Team Sky. Here is Team Sky’s Nicholas Roche stocking up with energy bars after signing in. The Irish stripes on his jersey signify he once was Irish road race champion.

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Bike of cycle tourist possibly all the way from Poland. There were fans from all over the world at the start today. Here is the bike of someone who had probably cycled all the way from Poland as there is a red and white flag on the back of the bike. Tri-bars are unusual on a touring bike but I guess they let you rest your arms when you are cycling long distances.  Poland is as far away from the French Alps as Ireland is and even Wroclaw in south-west Poland is about 1,500 km away by bike.

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Nairo Quintana got the biggest cheer out of all the cyclists that went past us. After signing in, a lot of riders go back to their coach until near the start time. Here, is Nairo Quintana heading to the start line about 10 mins before the departure time and about 20 mins after he and his team-mates had signed in.

 Chris Froome signing in. Chris Froome was the last rider to sign in just 7 mins before the departure. Noel was telling me that back in Ireland, on the Off the Ball radio show on Newstalk, they were reporting that Froome was being booed when he signed in but here in St Jean de Maurienne, there was only applause.

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Countdown to the start of the stage. We couldn’t get close to the actual start so instead watched the Grand Depart on the big screen. The jersey holders always lead the peloton away so today Peter Sagan (green), Chris Froome (yellow), Joachim Rodriquez (polka-dot) and Nairo Quintana (white) had the honour of being the first cyclists on the road.

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Profile of Stage 19 in 2015 Tour de France. Stage 19 with 4 categorized climbs was one of the toughest stages in the 2015 Tour de France. It was the same stage that was used for the Etape du Tour the previous Sunday. With Stage 19 starting in Saint Jean de Maurienne in the morning and then passing through the town again 18 km from the finish, it was the ideal base for the day.

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Lacets de Montvernier. After the cyclists had left, we headed back to the car and drove towards La Chambre to try and catch the Tour. On the way, we went past the Lacets de Montvernier (lacets is French for shoelaces), on which Romain Bardet had attacked the day before to win the stage.

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Roundabout at St Etienne des Cuines. However, in La Chambre, we missed the Tour by about 10 mins so instead went to St Etienne des Cuines and waited there in the middle of a roundabout for the cyclists. This photo below shows the road the cyclists were due to take towards the Col du Glandon.

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Breakaway of about 20 riders. After waiting for about half an hour, the first riders appeared in the distance. Rigoberto Uran and Daniel Teklehaimont were just 2 of about about 20 riders in a breakaway about a minute and half ahead of the peloton.

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Lotto-Jumbo were leading the chase. The peloton were being led by Lotto-Jumbo with Sky just behind. The speed the cyclists went past was just incredible; I’d say over 50 km/hr despite the cross-wind.

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TV pictures from a helicopter overhead. Here is the same shot from the helicopter camera flying overhead. You can just about make out myself and Noel standing at the edge of the roundabout as the cyclists whoosh past.

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Start of the final climb of the day to La Toussuire. From St Etienne de Cuines, we drove back to St Jean de Maurienne and parked up. We then had to walk about 2 km uphill to the start of the climb to La Toussuire. However, despite the long trek, we had plenty of time and even got to see the cavalcade again. We didn’t get much stuff as we were hemmed in by the crowd of people but I managed to catch a Carrefour hat.

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Nibali and Rolland were in the lead. After waiting for over an hour, and watching car after car and bike after bike go by, Vincenzo Nibali and Pierre Rolland were the first cyclists to emerge through the crowd of spectators at the bottom of the hill. Notice the man opposite us in the white T-shirt with a young child on his shoulders cheering on Nibali and Rolland. He is acting a bit crazy in this photo but later on, he would get even crazier.

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Quintana and Froome. They were about 2 minutes ahead of the peloton being led by Movistar with Quintana right on Froome’s wheel. The man in the white T-shirt has now put the child on the ground but notice his left arm is swung out attempting to hit Chris Froome on the arse.

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Noel watching Contador go past. Alberto Contador had punctured on the approach to the climb and was about 10 seconds further back. There was a camera crew behind Contador and this shot is the only time we made it onto TV. Noel is quite clear on the right hand-side of this picture beneath the number 1 logo with his blue T-shirt but I am just behind him and you can only make out my Carrefour hat.

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Fan opposite us tries to slap Contador. Notice the crazy fan with the beard and white T-shirt opposite us on the other side of the road. He had tried to slap Froome on the arse and tried to do the same to Contador.

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Incident was picked up by the TV cameras. Here is the same shot from the TV camera. The fan was spoted by one of the gendarmie, who had a word with him later. Crazy stuff altogether.

Here is the same incident on video. Fortunately, the crazy fan didn’t seem to make much contact as he could have knocked Contador over with his antics.

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Noel at the polka-dot sign to mark the start of the climb. After the cyclists and convoy of support cars had passed, we headed down towards the town.

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Colombian fans at the big screen in St Jean de Maurienne. There was a big screen set up in the town and we were able to watch the finish of the stage. Every time Quintana appeared on the big screen, a huge cheer would go up from a crowd of Colombian fans just behind us.

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Quintana attacks about 5 km from end of the stage. When we got there, Nibali had still 8 km to go to the finish. We were watching for about 10 mins when there was a huge cheer as Quintana suddenly attacked. It was like being at a football match and as the gap back to Froome got bigger and bigger, the chanting got louder and louder.

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Froome was isolated but dug deep to limit his losses. Froome had to chase on his own as all his team-mates had been dropped earlier on the climb.

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No one else could live with the pace of Quintana and Froome. Valverde, Contador and Gesink were struggling to stay with Froome.

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Nibali wins the stage. Nibali had dropped Rolland halfway up the climb and was faster up La Toussuire than every other cyclist apart from Quintana and Froome..There was a huge round of applause from the spectators watching the race on the big screen when he crossed the finish line first. St Jean de Maurienne is not that far from the Italian border and there was probably a lot of Italians at the stage today.

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Quintana gained 30 seconds on Froome. Quintana was second, 44 seconds behind. He was over a minute quicker than Nibali up the climb but could not close the 2 minute gap Nibali had at the bottom of La Toussuire.

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Froome was third. Froome came in third, 30 seconds behind Quintana. Of course, had he been knocked off his bike by that crazy fan at the start of the climb, he could have lost even more time and possibly even the Tour de France. Fortunately, despite the millions of fans who watch the Tour de France every year, incidents such as the one we witnessed are thankfully very rare. Froome has had to put up with all sorts of abuse during the Tour de France and on another stage claimed he was spat upon and urine thrown over him. Compared to those incidents, being slapped on the arse by the spectator in Saint Jean de Maurienne was pretty minor. Froome himself has been known to give as good as he gets and has often slapped spectators that have got too close on some stages.  Anytime this happens and is caught on camera, he normally gets fined 200 CHF by the UCI for “unseemly behaviour”.  Perhaps, if some spectators were also occasionally fined, they would think twice as well and not always act the maggot when the cyclists go past them during the Tour de France.

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