Police identify culprit who threw beer at Mathieu van der Poel during Tour of Flanders

Suspect to be questioned, whilst spectator who threw cap at world champion during Paris-Roubaix is set to hand herself in amidst complaint from French rider union

Clock11:30, Tuesday 9th April 2024
Mathieu van der Poel was fortunately undeterred by the incidents in both Monuments

© Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel was fortunately undeterred by the incidents in both Monuments

Following the incident in which a woman threw a cycling cap at Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) on Sunday at Paris-Roubaix, fresh information has led police in Belgium to identify a culprit they suspect of throwing beer at the Dutchman during the recent Tour of Flanders.

The world champion won both races in sensational style by attacking solo, but during those lone conquests, Van der Poel's achievement was marred by roadside fans overstepping the line.

At Paris-Roubaix, a female supporter threw what looked to be a cycling cap towards Van der Poel's front wheel during one of the cobblestone sectors, whilst so-called supporters at the Tour of Flanders threw beer over the Dutchman as he rode the Oude Kwaremont climb.

One individual has been identified as a beer-thrower and will soon be questioned by the authorities, as confirmed by Joost Duhamel of the Flemish Ardennes police.

"This is just a result of new tips, people who think it can't go on like this and rightly so," he told Het Nieuwsblad. "First they throw beer and now a hat, where is it going to end? We have to set boundaries to that behaviour, if you can't just start supporting, stay home.

"Following last week's beer throwers on Oude Kwaremont, one person is already clearly in the picture. He has not yet been interrogated, but he can expect an invitation," he clarified. "Sunday's incident during Paris-Roubaix clearly shows that we need to take action. That behaviour must stop before it goes from evil to worse."

Antagonism towards Van der Poel from those at roadside is unfortunately nothing new and neither is friction from Belgian supporters when a Dutch rider is doing well — those battle lines go back decades. The 29-year-old was targeted during last winter's cyclo-cross campaign and was left questioning his future in the sport.

Read more:

From Belgium to France, the latest incident to besiege Van der Poel was spotted by television cameras 42.2km from the finish of Paris-Roubaix, when a spectator threw what looked to be a cycling cap in the direction of Van der Poel's front wheel.

Needless to say, the incident could have been very serious had the cap got stuck in his wheel or drivetrain. Thanks to the television footage, the task of identifying the woman is an easier job for the French authorities and it appears a suspect has already been identified.

Read more: Action will be taken after spectator throws cycling cap towards Mathieu van der Poel’s wheels at Paris-Roubaix

French rider union launch complaint with police after Paris-Roubaix

On Monday evening, the Union Nationale des Cyclistes Professionnels (UNCP), the French branch of the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés and therefore those responsible for reporting the incident, confirmed that they would be filing an official complaint to the police on Tuesday morning regarding the cap incident.

"We are asking anyone who can provide information to identify this charming person," the union wrote on X.

The complaint sent was for 'endangering others at risk of death or infirmity,' as confirmed by the CPA on Tuesday morning.

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Het Nieuwsblad discovered on Monday that the woman is Flemish and is said to be ready to hand herself in to the authorities. Olivier Orlans of Eventor told the Belgian press that the woman had been spotted in a VIP tent near to the course.

"We've been organizing that day for 16 years,” Orlans said. “When we saw the images, we didn't think the woman was part of our company. She didn't have a badge to be able to get in and out of our tent. But we did investigate it and asked all our customers if they knew the lady in question."

As it turns out, one of the companies involved at the event admitted that the woman was present on their invitation and remarkably, reported that the suspect is said to be a fan of Van der Poel.

"Those people told us that the woman would report herself [to the authorities]. She is reportedly a fan of Mathieu van der Poel, which would indicate that she did not deliberately aim the hat at his bike. If it was willful, then as an organization we naturally find that scandalous. But everyone has the benefit of the doubt. It is now up to the woman in question to tell her story."

Should the perpetrator be caught and taken to court, she will become the latest in a line of successful civil cases pursued by the CPA and UNCP, who have the health and wellbeing of the cyclists as their top priority.

The most famous recent case came after the 2021 Tour de France, in which a spectator was fined €1,200 by the courts and forced to pay €1 as a token gesture to the UNCP after causing a mass pile-up.

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

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