Police arrest spectator who caused Tour de France cyclist pile-up
Cyclists react after the crash on Saturday caused by a woman holding a cardboard sign on the roadside between Brest and Landerneau. © Anne-Christine Poujoulat, REUTERS

The spectator who caused a mass crash of riders on the opening day of the Tour de France has been arrested, a source close to the investigation said on Wednesday.

"The woman has been formally identified and she was taken into custody a few minutes ago," the source told AFP after the state prosecutor for the city of Brest in Normandy, Camille Miansoni, said, "A suspect is in custody."

On Saturday, a woman brandishing a cardboard sign on the roadside between Brest and Landerneau caused German rider Tony Martin to fall, who in turn brought down dozens of riders behind him.

The crash held up the race for five minutes while bikes and bodies were untangled.

The woman held up a sign with 'Granny and Grandad' written in German and looked up the road towards the race's motorbike cameras, crucially, with her back to the speeding peloton.

Martin brushed into her, lost his balance and fell, causing a sickening domino effect that swept through most of the peloton.

"The major issue on the Tour is road security," lieutenant-colonel Joël Scherer of the French Gendarmerie told AFP on Sunday.

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Another policeman told AFP that "zero fatalities" was their bottom line assignment aim on a Tour de France or any bike race.

The woman, who was wearing a yellow raincoat, reeled away in horror when she realised the extent of her folly, but she then disappeared into the deep roadside crowds, her sign folded away beneath her arm.

DSM's German rider Jasha Sutterlin was the only cyclist who had to pull out at once, his Tour de France dream ruined on day one.

Eight other riders needed treatment from the official doctor and a host of others were treated for grazes, bruises and cuts caused by the pile-up.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)