Senior officials from the Tour de France organization were seen dragging climate change protesters into a ditch during the tenth stage of this year’s race from Morzine to the Altiport in Megeve.
Despite being chained around their necks, a small group of young protesters were dragged off the race course by tour officials. About 36 kilometers from the finish, on a straight stretch of road, protesters sat down on the course and set off red flares. The stage breakaway and the peloton were both stopped until the road was clear.
Climate activists from the Last Renovation movement said: “Since the government doesn’t care about the climate crisis, we need to come back to resume the Tour de France to refocus attention on what matters for our survival. We need to get people to react our government as it leads us to the slaughterhouse. Nonviolent disruption is our last chance to be heard and avoid the worst consequences of global warming,” the group said.
Tour organizers ASO declined to comment on the protest. Commenting on the scene on a racing motorbike, Sir Bradley Wiggins told Eurosport viewers: “It was really going. It was pretty crazy.
“A lot of people got angry, some sporting directors got out of the cars, put a boot in them.”
The Last Renovation group was responsible for a disruption at the French Open tennis tournament, when a protester jumped onto the court and tied herself to the net, wearing a T-shirt saying ‘We have 1,028 days left’ . At the Tour protest, they were seen wearing T-shirts reading, “We have 989 days left.”
The Tour has long been the target of protests, but it has come against the backdrop of race organizers pledging to reduce their carbon footprint. This year’s “road book”, the handbook given to all those who work on the race, specifies that the Tour is “resolutely committed to being an increasingly eco-responsible organisation”.
In 2020, during the Pandemic Tour, the race was criticized by recently elected “green” mayors in some major cities in France. Lyon mayor Gregory Doucet has described the Tour as “macho and polluting” and lacking in environmental awareness, and there have been multiple calls for the race to further reduce its carbon footprint.
The final outcome of the race itself was thrown into doubt when race leader Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Emirates team was hit with two positive Covid-19 tests, just 48 hours after all riders in the peloton had been tested and declared free of the virus.
George Bennett, one of the defending champion’s main mountain support runners, and his team-mate Rafal Majka, both tested positive on Tuesday morning in Morzine. Bennett retired from the race while Majka was allowed to continue racing on the grounds that he was asymptomatic. On Saturday, another member of the Pogacar team, Vegard Stake Laengen, also tested positive and withdrew. The eight-man squad Pogacar started with in Copenhagen is now down 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 team said in a statement. “He is asymptomatic and is analyzing his PCR, [we] found he had a very low risk of contagion, similar to the case of Bob Jungels (the AG2R Citroën driver who tested positive in Copenhagen) earlier in the race.
Australian rider Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange) also tested positive and was taken out of the race. ASO has decided to restrict media access to team buses, or the paddock, stating that “only UCI representatives (jury, commissaires, anti-doping), team staff and organizational staff 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 by Nicholas Schultz, a teammate of the absent Durbridge. Bora Hansgrohe’s Lennard Kamna, one of the day’s breakaways, moved within 11 seconds of race leader Pogacar but is expected to fall back in the next 48 hours, which includes top finishes at the Alpe d’Huez and Col du Granon.