Tour de France prepares for disruption amid civil unrest across France

The race's organisers are also ready to tackle climate protestors across the three weeks

France protests
French anti riot police officers walk past a burning truck in Nantes, western France on early July 1, 2023, four days after a 17-year-old man was killed by police in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Tour de France is preparing for disruption as the race begins on Saturday amid civil unrest across France.

The race's director, Christian Prudhomme, said on Friday that the organisation was in constant contact with the French government after four nights of protest and rioting across France after the fatal shooting of a teenager by police.

The unrest has continued for days after a 17-year-old boy, Nahel M, was killed by police in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday. The Tour begins on Saturday in Bilbao, but will cross into France on Monday, raising fears that the event will be affected.

While the Tour does not pass through the current flashpoints early in the race, there are stage finishes and starts in major cities such as Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Pau, and Paris.

"We are in contact with the authorities, like every year on the Tour, and we're following the situation closely," Prudhomme said on Friday.

On Friday evening, almost 1,000 people were arrested across the country, with the situation particularly bad in Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. However, the French ministry of the interior said the protests were “of a lower intensity compared to the previous night”.

45,000 police officers were deployed to places across France to deal with the incidents. The Tour uses hundreds of police officers along its route, with manpower being a possible disruption to the race.

The British Foreign Office urged people to avoid the riots, saying their locations and timings were "unpredictable".

It also said it was "more important than ever" to get travel insurance.

Another disruption to the race could be environmental protestors. The 2022 Tour de France was disrupted by climate change activists and it is likely to happen again this edition. The French environmental group Dernière Rénovation, which staged last year's protests, said that it would again be protesting at this year's Tour. 

Two motorbikes from the French gendarmerie's special intervention brigade will ride ahead of the peloton, in order to try and clear the roads ahead of the race.

"The two motorbikes will work as a duo," a gendarmerie captain told team managers, according to Reuters. "Our goal is to be able to bring an immediate response and avoid the race being stopped."

The group use similar tactics to Just Stop Oil, who have held up football and cricket matches in recent months.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.