Tommy Voeckler and his motorbike driver have been suspended for one stage of the Tour de France for their part in an incident which held up yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard on the Col de la Loze on Wednesday.
Voeckler, the former Europcar rider, is working at the race as an on-motorbike pundit for France Télévisions, and usually gets close to the action, but not normally too close.
Jumbo-Visma’s Vingegaard was forced to unclip on stage 17, as Voeckler’s motorbike stalled on the climb, blocked the race commissaire’s car that was driving in front of the race leader, and caused crowds to mass around the riders.
As a result, the Frenchman and his driver, Joël Chary, are suspended from Thursday’s stage 18, and also fined 500 CHF each. The incident happened with 8.4km to go on the stage, at the point of the Col de la Loze where it ramps up to 24%. Fortunately, it did not impact the race greatly, with Vingegaard already gaining time on his rivals.
“I was behind Wilco [Kelderman] and Jonas, and it was a terrible situation,” Jumbo-Visma directeur sportif Arthur van Dongen said post-stage. “There were a lot of spectators on the road, we were standing for a long time.”
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Vingegaard explained in his press conference. “I just know there were a lot of vehicles in front of me that I could not pass. I had to stand still for a moment. But then now we made it through, Wilco and me. And then we went on.
“It’s very unfortunate that there are problems with the fans. Today, I didn’t see there was any problems with the fans. I think it’s not nice if it’s going to decide a race.”
It is not the first time in this year’s Tour de France that motorbikes have affected the race action.
On stage 14, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was forced to abort an attack for bonus seconds, due to two motorbikes being in the way, thanks to the volume of fans.
The drivers and the passengers – a photographer from L’Équipe and a cameraman from France Télévisions – were fined 500 CHF and suspended from Sunday’s stage 15.
The photographer, Bernard Papon, apologised the next day.