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Paris-Roubaix spectator who threw cap at Mathieu van der Poel offered deal to avoid prosecution, must participate in rider safety campaign

The woman is accused of 'intentional assault and battery' for throwing a hat at the race winner's bike as he passed at high speed, the offer to avoid prosecution also requiring her to admit wrongdoing and volunteer with Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix...

The Paris-Roubaix spectator who caused outrage by throwing a cap at Mathieu van der Poel's bike as he charged across the cobbles on route to victory has been offered a deal to avoid prosecution.

TV cameras captured the incident on the Mérignies à Avelin sector during the famous French cobbled classic held at the start of April, it later emerging that the woman was a corporate guest at a VIP tent for the race, her lawyers stating that there was "never any intention to harm" or sabotage the world champion.

Following a complaint by the French cycling union UNCP the woman faces a charge of 'intentional assault and battery', something it has now been reported that she will not be prosecuted for if she accepts a deal that has been offered.

WielerRevue reports there are three "strict conditions" she must agree to in order to avoid prosecution, the first being acknowledging her wrongdoing. The UNCP has also demanded she volunteer with Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix, the group that maintains and repairs the cobbled farm tracks that characterise the 'Hell of the North'.

The final condition would involve the woman stepping into the spotlight and being part of a UNCP safety campaign that would be made to educate other cycling fans and race spectators.

The union's chairman Pascal Chartier admitted the third condition would likely be the "most painful" but added that "if that were not possible for her, the court would still have to consider this unfortunate case".

> Bianchi bike sounded like it was "becoming cardboard" on the cobbles, says Paris-Roubaix pro who changed bikes four times due to "technical problem" and "carbon noises"

In a statement addressing the deal offered, the woman's lawyer said: "We will now discuss it thoroughly to see whether we can respond to it. My client wants to take responsibility, but we want to see the proposals first. Let's take a look."

The UNCP was backed by the CPA riders' union who promised "action" would be taken against the spectator who made headlines with her cap-throwing actions as the Dutch rider thundered over the cobbles at 48km/h (29.8mph), risking causing a crash or mechanical had it got trapped in his wheels or drivetrain.

Van der Poel said he had felt like "something white" had hit him, adding: "Apparently not everyone likes me riding in the lead. But I don't care."

Bizarrely, during the fallout, it was reported that the woman in question was in fact claiming to be a fan of Van der Poel as she insisted there was "never any intention to harm".

Matthieu van der Poel at Paris Roubaix 2024 (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

On the day she had been a guest of a company at a VIP tent where various businesses had invited clients for corporate hospitality.

"We have been organising that day for 16 years," said Olivier Orlans of Eventor, the company that runs the corporate hospitality. "When we saw the images, we did not think the woman was part of our party. She didn't have a badge to get in and out of our tent. But we did investigate and asked all our customers if they knew the lady in question.

"If it was deliberate, then as an organisation we obviously find that scandalous, but everyone has the benefit of the doubt. It is now up to the woman in question to tell her story."

At the time, the woman, who still has not been identified, confirmed her identity to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad (ending wild and unfounded speculation she resembled the roadside spectator that caused the infamous 'Allez Opi-Omi' crash at the Tour de France) and explaining how she is now "caught up in a storm" thanks to an "unfortunate" manoeuvre, fuelled by an afternoon's worth of aperitifs.

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According to the Belgian newspaper, the spectator – from Flanders and a regular Paris-Roubaix roadside fan – denied the cap was thrown "consciously".

"If there are any complaints, I will take responsibility. I don't want to waste more words on this in the media," she said from a purportedly planned holiday abroad with friends, emphasising that the April trip was planned and not a reaction to the "commotion or fuss" surrounding her at home.

Her lawyers then added that they were in contact with the UNCP, suggesting that she was "open to a conversation and that she would like to provide the union with an explanation about what happened".

"It was clearly never my client's intention to harm the rider in question, let alone that she wanted to bring him down. No sane person would do something like that, right?" the lawyer suggested.

World champion Van der Poel has long been the target of roadside antagonism, with reports of spectators booing and throwing beer at him throughout this year's spring classics season. In December, as the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider dominated on his way to a seventh straight cyclocross victory, he was seen spitting at spectators at the UCI World Cup in Hulst.

Mathieu van der Poel spitting at Hulst World Cup December 2023

The 29-year-old was fined by the UCI over his conduct but said he is "a bit fed up with being booed every week" and appeared to retweet a social media post suggesting the fans had even thrown beer or urine at him during the race.

The latest riders' union action follows on from similar steps following the Tour of Flanders, cases filed against spectators who allegedly threw beer at Van der Poel. 

In 2021, the spectator who caused the aforementioned 'Allez Opi-Omi' crash was fined €1,200 and ordered to pay a symbolic €1 compensation to the UNCP. The unnamed woman had faced a maximum punishment of a €15,000 fine and/or 12 months' imprisonment for causing the huge crash on the opening stage of the 2021 Tour in Brittany.

Tour de France spectator with placard

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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3 comments

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wtjs | 4 days ago
2 likes

It's about time more derision was directed at the ludicrous claims of the shyster defence lawyers, especially by judges and juries

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jaymack replied to wtjs | 3 days ago
0 likes

Lawyers advocate for their clients. I'd be surprised to the point of astonishment if you found yourself in trouble and expected your representatives not to act in accordance with your instructions. In fact you'd probably complain to their Professional body and quite right too. Never conflate the case with the person presenting it. And all advocates get a hard time from the judiciary, it's par for the course.

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jaymack | 4 days ago
0 likes

Restorative justice, it could catch on.

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