AURILLAC, France (AFP) — Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has met, and forgiven, the young fan who caused a crash in the first stage of the race and left the Spaniard with a significant deficit.
At first reported to be a woman the fan, as it turned out, was a rugby-loving teenager from Les Herbiers called Theo.
After a first peloton had passed on the road to Mont des Alouettes the 13-year-old poked his head out to look up the road at the peloton.
Seconds later Kazakhstan’s Maxim Iglinsky collided with the teenager, sending him into the ditch.
While he suffered cuts and stings from nettles, the subsequent split in the peloton left Contador frantically chasing his rivals but finishing 1 minute 14 seconds behind some of his top rivals.
It was the worst possible start to the race for Spain’s three-time champion, who has since crashed another three times.
Contador finally got to meet the teenager who may have derailed his bid for a fourth yellow jersey in a meeting organised Monday by French sports daily L’Equipe.
After an ironic “Gracias hombre! (Thanks man!)” to Theo, Contador warned of getting too close to the peloton when speeds can easily reach 60km/h.
“The important thing is to pay attention to the peloton next time you’re on the road,” Contador said in L’Equipe.
“We ride fast and it’s dangerous. I would rather you enjoyed seeing the riders go past.”
Theo, who endured a few sleepless nights after reliving the incident on television, admitted: “It was the first time that we saw the Tour go past. But after that happened my Mum was really ashamed.
“My parents, brothers and friends haven’t stopped making fun of me since.
“The thing is, I’m not even a cycling fan. I play rugby at Les Herbiers. It’s my Dad and uncle who are big fans.
“But of course, I had heard of Contador.”
Contador, who also lost time in the second stage’s team time trial, started Tuesday’s 10th stage from Aurillac to Carmaux with a deficit of 1:41 and 1:30 on key rivals Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck respectively.