Army to patrol Tour de France rail crossings

French soldiers will guard every train crossing on the route on the Tour de France to stop riders going under the barrier, the government said Monday.

Army to patrol Tour de France rail crossings
An image of the the riders crossing the train tracks in the Paris-Roubaix race just before a TGV arrives. Photo: Screengrab Eurosport
The measure was ordered to prevent a repeat of an incident in this year's Paris-Roubaix race when riders crossed a line just seconds before a high speed train hurtled by (see below).

Organisers reaffirmed that any rider who breaches safety rules at rail crossings would be thrown out of the Tour, which started on Monday in Belgium heading for northern France.

“On national territory, a representative of the organisers and a Republican Guard will be posted at each level crossing … and ensure the rules for crossing at that particular point,” said a statement released by the interior ministry, Tour de France organisers and the SNCF, France's state rail company.

Tour de France organisers said there would also be extra safety signs before each rail crossing.

There will be eight rail crossings in Saturday's stage from Rennes to Mur-de-Bretagne.

“Riders who do not conform to this arrangement will be thrown out of the race by the commissioners in line with International Cycling Union rules,” the statement added.

French prosecutors are still considering whether to press charges after a number of riders ignored a red light during the Paris-Roubaix race in April and crossed a TGV high speed rail line.

The last rider went under the barrier just eight seconds before a train went by.

The SNCF condemned the “irresponsible” manoeuvre and made an official complaint to prosecutors. Twenty-nine people died in accidents on French rail crossings in 2014.

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.