Brian Cookson, the president of the UCI, has warned that the sport risks "something tragic" happening if fans at the Tour de France do not behave themselves. He was speaking before Chris Froome "lashed out" at a Colombian spectator who almost knocked him off his bike yesterday en route to his stunning stage win in the Pyrenees which put him in the yellow jersey at the end of the first week.
Froome, not known for his descending skills, launched a surprise attack off the top of the Col de Peyresourde and soloed the last 15km for a brilliant win in Bagneres-de-Luchon.
But the brush with the fan was a reminder of last year when the Briton was targeted by spectators, many of whom had been whipped into a frenzy by speculation that Froome might be doping. The Team Sky rider was crowded, spat at multiple times and had a cup of urine thrown at him on one stage.
He implored fans yesterday to be careful. "It's fantastic having so many fans out on the road but I would urge the fans, please, don't run with the riders," he said. "It gets really dangerous."
Of the Colombian fan who ran alongside him, he added: "This guy in particular was running right next to my handlebars and he had a flag that was flying out behind him and it was just getting dangerous so I pushed him away, I lashed out."
Cookson admitted there was little the sport could do to protect riders from the public on hundreds of kilometres of open road day after day. But he urged them not to do something which could irreparably damage the sport's traditions.
"I don't want to overstate it but ultimately we have a unique sport; it is a privilege to be able to get up close to the race and to the event," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "But people have a responsibility to respect that as well. I saw things last year during the Tour that I think went too far. And it wouldn't take too much of a step for something tragic to happen. The beauty of our sport is its accessibility; we need to be careful we don't lose that.
"Do we want cycling to take place on motor racing circuits and everyone is watching from stands or behind barriers? No we don't."