Senior officials from the Tour de France organisation were seen dragging climate change protestors into a ditch during the tenth stage of this year’s race from Morzine to Megeve altiport.
Despite being chained together around the neck, a small group of young protesters were dragged off the race route by tour officials. At around 36 kilometres from the finish, on a section of straight road, the protesters sat on the course and set off red flares. The stage breakaway and peloton were both halted until the road was cleared.
Climate activists from the Derniere Renovation movement said: “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. We need to make our government react as they lead us to the slaughterhouse. Non-violent disruption is our last chance to be heard and avoid the worst consequences of global warming,” the group said.
The Tour’s organisers, ASO, declined to comment on the protest. Commentating on the scene on an in-race motorbike, Sir Bradley Wiggins told Eurosport viewers: “It really was going off. It was quite crazy.
“A lot of people getting quite angry, some of the directeur sportifs got out the cars, stuck a boot in.”
The Derniere Renovation group was responsible for an interruption at the French Open tennis, when a protester jumped on to the court and tied herself to the net, wearing a T-shirt saying “We have 1,028 days left.” In the Tour protest, they were seen wearing T-shirts stating: “We have 989 days left.”
The Tour has long been the target of protests but this took place against the backdrop of the race organisers pledging their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. This year’s ’road book,’ the manual given to all those working on the race, states that the Tour is “resolutely committed to being an increasingly eco-responsible organisation.”
In 2020, during the pandemic Tour, the race was criticised by recently elected “green” mayors in some of France’s major cities. The mayor of Lyon, Gregory Doucet, described the Tour as “macho and polluting” and lacking an environmental conscience, and there have been multiple calls for the race to further reduce its carbon footprint.
The final outcome of the race itself was put into doubt when race leader Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Emirates team was hit by two Covid-19 positive tests, just 48 hours after all riders in the peloton were tested and declared free of the virus.
George Bennett, one of the defending champion’s key mountain support riders, and teammate Rafal Majka, both tested positive on Tuesday morning in Morzine. Bennett withdrew from the race while Majka was allowed to continue racing on the grounds that he was asymptomatic. On Saturday, another of Pogacar’s team, Vegard Stake Laengen, also tested positive and withdrew. The eight-man team that Pogacar started with in Copenhagen is now reduced to six, with Majka’s continuation uncertain.
“As per our internal protocols, Majka was tested for Covid-19 and returned a positive result this morning,” the UAE Emirates team said in a statement. “He is asymptomatic and analysing his PCR, [we] found he had a very low risk of infectiousness, similar to the case of Bob Jungels (the AG2R Citroen rider who tested positive in Copenhagen) earlier in the race.”
The Australian rider Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) also tested positive and was withdrawn from the race. ASO moved to restrict media access to the team buses, or the paddock, saying that “only representatives of the UCI (jury, commissaires, anti-doping), the teams’ staff and the organisation’s personnel supervising the teams will have access to the paddock.” Access to the finish lines, for the media, remains unchanged.
Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-EasyPost) won the stage in a photo finish from Nicholas Schultz, a teammate to the absent Durbridge. Lennard Kamna, of Bora Hansgrohe, one of the day’s breakaways, moved to within 11 seconds of race leader Pogacar but is expected to drop back in the next 48 hours, which includes summit finishes at Alpe d’Huez and the Col du Granon.