Prosecutors urge suspended sentence for woman who caused Tour de France pile-up

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The spectator behind one of the biggest pile-ups in Tour de France history appeared in court in Brest, north-western France, on Thursday charged with endangering lives and causing unintentional injuries.

The 31-year-old woman from Brittany, whose identity has been withheld after she was targeted by online abuse, is likely to avoid prison after prosecutors demanded a suspended sentence.

The woman had attended the opening Tour stage on June 26 with the aim of getting a sign noticed by TV cameras.

It read: "Allez, Opi-Omi," the German terms for "grandpa and granny," a nod to her family's German roots.

But she stepped out too far in front of the peloton as it sped along a narrow road toward the finish at Landerneau in western France.

Pile-up

The German rider Tony Martin was unable to avoid bumping into her and fell, forcing dozens of riders to crash while others swerved into the rows of spectators.

TV footage of the collision and scenes of medics tending stunned and grimacing victims sparked outrage among fans and race organisers, especially when they realised the woman had fled the scene instead of staying to help.

She remained in hiding for four days before turning herself in to police.

Initially, Tour de France organisers wanted the culprit to face the full weight of the law - up to a year in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros - but they eventually mollified their stance.

A judge will decide the woman's fate on 9 December.

Julien Bradmetz, defending, said his client had had a fragile personality for many years. "This fragility has now increased tenfold so today my client is living through hell," he added.

The hearing took place as Tour de France organisers unveiled the route and stages for next year's race.

2022 Tour route

It will start in the Danish capital Copenhagen and will also include passages in Switzerland and Belgium before the traditional dash around the Champs Elysées..

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour, said of the hearing in Brittany: "She did something daft, she's no terrorist. We just want people to take care when they come to the Tour and remember they are there to see the champions and not to get on television."

However the International Association of Riders (CPA) has maintained its complaint and is seeking a fine to stop dangerous fan behaviour during stages.

"The damage suffered by the riders is physical, moral and economic," CPA president Gianni Bugno said in a statement.

"An athlete prepares months for a grand tour and it is not acceptable that all his hard work, that of his family, his staff and his team, should be shattered in an instant by the quest for popularity."

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