Tour riders on protest: ‘At least we didn’t get pepper sprayed this time’

Another likened the halting to when you stop at a cafe and then get going again.

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

Stage 10 of the 2022 Tour de France was stopped for around 15 minutes after climate emergency protestors sat on the road and blocked the race route.

Motorbikes told the riders to slow down, eventually bringing them to a halt while police and members of ASO, the Tour organisers, dragged the protestors off the road.

Alberto Bettiol, the lone race leader at the time with less than 40km to go, was allowed to regain his gap and although his move was unsuccessful his EF EducationEasyPost teammate Magnus Cort eventually took the stage win up the Megève altiport.

“No I didn’t know it was a protest [immediately],” Bettiol said afterwards. “I saw from afar that these people were in the middle of the road but in the end they managed pretty well because the police helped the people to go away and they gave me the gap. So in the end it doesn’t really change anything apart from the feeling after having stopped for 15 or 20 minutes isn’t always easy.

“I didn’t know,” he continued when asked about the fact it was a climate emergency protest. “For me everybody is working at the Tour de France, I don’t say anything about the protest but they could do it differently…I don’t know.” After the stage Bettiol was asked to the police station to make a statement on the protest.

Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) was in the original breakaway group just behind Bettiol. They first clocked something was up when a man with a red flare stepped onto the course.

“There was a guy with a flare who was sort of coming into the road a little bit and we were like oh that’s a bit strange. And then we saw all the motorbikes stopped up in front, red smoke everywhere,” Wright told CyclingTips.

“It’s funny, your instant reaction is ‘I need to get through this as quickly as I can’ but you forget there are loads of cars that also need to get past. In the end it was actually horrible stopping when you’re riding at a nice tempo and then you’ve got to start and stop again. And we pretty much started flat out again straight away. It’s like when you stop at the cafe and then you go again.

“I figured it was some kind of climate protest, I’m guessing, if they were on the floor,” Wright continued. “They’re protesting about a good thing but it’s not good when it’s in front of the Tour de France.”

EF’s Neilson Powless was back in the peloton and wasn’t wholly aware of what happened, saying he needed to get on the bus and read the news about what had happened up the road. It was then explained to the American that it was a climate protest, and given the Tour’s carbon footprint, which is often criticised by various local politicians in France when the Tour comes to town.

“I don’t really know the exact numbers on what’s going but also we’re hopefully offsetting that by getting more people on bikes and promoting a healthy lifestyle,” Powless answered. “I think it’s going to be impossible to quantify anything. I’m all for cleaning up the environment and everybody doing their part to offset their carbon footprint. Hopefully it’s getting better in the next few years.”

The yellow jersey, Tadej Pogačar, posed for pics on the side of the road as the peloton came to a halt to reset the gap to the front of the race.

“I don’t know we just stopped, on the radio we heard there were a bunch of people standing on thes treet and we had to stop and we just did that,” Pogačar said after the stage. “We saw police taking a few guys. For me it was a funny moment but I’m sure we’ll forget about it. I don’t know exactly what it was about.”

For the more experienced members of the peloton, this isn’t the first protest they’ve seen at the race. “I saw the guys getting dragged across the road,” Geraint Thomas said. “But at least we didn’t get pepper sprayed this time.”

Editors' Picks