'Insane' cycle fan drives into crowd

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The Independent Online

An "out of control" Tour de France spectator injured four people yesterday when he drove a car into the cycle race's finish area in Colmar, near the German border.

A woman had both legs broken and suffered head injuries when she was hit by the Renault. One police officer suffered a broken leg, and another had neck injuries. The fourth victim, a race official, suffered major bruising. A tour spokesman said: "Nobody can be prepared for an insane person forcing their way through the barricades."

Police said security men had stopped the driver from speaking to the veteran French cyclist Laurent Jalabert, who had just given the country its second stage win on Bastille Day in four years.

The fan, who was said to be obsessed by Jalabert, then got into his car and drove headlong into the finish area.

The injured were laid out on the podium where the cyclist had been uncorking a celebratory bottle of champagne moments earlier, then taken to hospital in Colmar. The driver was being held for questioning by the police.

"It was a dramatic and terrible incident in the life of the Tour," said Patrice Clerc, chief executive of the holding group ASO, which owns the Tour. "We had no idea that this individual would react so violently."

The Tour de France has been dogged by doping scandals in recent years but despite covering thousands of miles and being watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators along the route, physical disruption has been rare. Two years ago riders had pepper thrown in their faces, but yesterday's assault was said to be the worst in the 98-year history of the race.

To make a bad day worse, there were unconfirmed reports that Txema del Olmo, a Spanish rider, had failed a doping test, the first such case on this year's Tour. He was suspected of taking erythropoetin, which makes riders absorb more oxygen.