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Why are protesters sitting chained in the road during the Tour de France?

SHARE Why are protesters sitting chained in the road during the Tour de France?
A flare is set off as farther down the road climate activists stage a protest during the 15th stage of the Tour de France.

A flare is set off as farther down the road climate activists stage a protest during the 15th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 202.5 kilometers (125.5 miles) with start in Rodez and finish in Carcassonne, France, Sunday, July 17, 2022.

Thibault Camus, Associated Press

Environmental activists have disrupted the Tour de France twice since it started in early July, including bringing the three-week bicycle race to a halt on one stage last week.

Who are they? A small number of demonstrators with the French group Derniere Renovation, which formed in April, sat on the roadway and lit pink flares, forcing riders to stop for 12 minutes with about 21 miles to go in the 92-mile Stage 10 on July 10. The race resumed after police dragged the protesters, some chained together around the neck, off the road.

The protesters wore T-shirts that read, “We have 989 days left,” a reference to the number of days the group, which has demonstrated at other high-profile sporting events, says are left to act.

What do they want? One of the group’s demands is that the French government commit itself to renovating all buildings to be more energy efficient by 2040.

“The reality is that the world towards which politicians are sending us is a world in which the Tour de France can no longer exist,” Alice, one of the protesters, said in a press release. “We must act and enter into civil resistance today to save what remains to be saved.”

On Sunday, protesters with pink flares again stretched out across the road with about 40 miles left in Stage 15, which covered 125 miles from Rodez to Carcassonne in southeastern France. The two race leaders slowed but rode around them as police pulled the protesters from the pavement and organizers let the race continue.

Moments later, a crash in the slowing main peloton forced a Dutch rider to drop out of the race with an apparent broken collarbone. It is unclear whether the crash that took him down is linked to the protest.

“The government’s inaction leaves us no choice but to enter into civil resistance and sound the alarm to prevent crimes against our country, humanity and life on Earth,” Derniere Renovation or Last Renovation posted on its website after the incident.

“We must do whatever is non-violently necessary to stop the race against time in the face of climate change. This is why citizens sat on this road today. And that is why we must force the government to act.”

What the riders say: The 23-year-old British cyclist Fred Wright was part of a small group of riders that first encountered the protesters on Stage 10, according to France24.

“You know that almost straight away. They’re protesting about a good thing,” he said, before adding, “But it’s not great when it’s in front of the Tour de France.”

2018 Tour champion Geraint Thomas, of Wales, said he’d seen the protesters “getting dragged away” in reference to a farmers protest during his title-winning campaign.

“At least we didn’t get pepper-sprayed this time,” he said.

More climate protests? Last month, a Derniere Renovation activist interrupted a French Open tennis match in Paris by tying her neck to the net of the tennis court. Activists also staged a sit-in on the major road around Paris earlier this month.

The group did not say whether it plans on protesting more stages of the Tour de France, which by some estimates reaches as many 3.5 billion television viewers across the 190 countries in which it is broadcast.

The race ends Sunday in Paris.