Top 10 Most Shocking Tour de France Incidents

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
It's incredible how many controversies surround this seemingly innocuous sport. For this list, we'll be looking at different scandals, controversies and dark incidents which have occurred during the historic cycling competition's history. Our countdown includes Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, 2021 Tour De France Crash, and more!

Top 10 Tour de France Scandals

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Tour de France Scandals.

For this list, we’ll be looking at different scandals, controversies and dark incidents which have occurred during the historic cycling competition’s history.

Which incident made your jaw drop? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

#10: Alberto Contador

Spaniard Alberto Contador was considered one of the greatest cyclists for a good portion of the 2000s. Among his accolades included 3 Tour De France titles, but it was upon racking up his third win in 2010 that he landed in trouble. Weeks later, it was revealed that he tested positive for Clenbuterol, a banned substance often used for weight loss and to treat asthma. While Contador claimed his innocence, believing that the amine must have been inside meat that he consumed which was brought over from Spain, he was subsequently stripped of his third Tour De France title, his legacy in turn tarnished. But this wasn’t the only controversy Contador was involved in during the 2010 tour…

#9: Chaingate

During stage 15 of the competition of that very same year, tour leader Andy Schleck would suddenly come to a halt and fix his bike’s chain after it fell off. Contador would then attack and ride past him. This series of events received attention because what Contador did was seen as somewhat unethical, in that there is an unwritten rule in the cycling community which states that riders should not pass an individual who has stopped to deal with a mechanical issue. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that all was fair in love and war for Contador that year. SB [03:29 “Today I didn’t know he had a mechanical problem, which is why I never looked back.”] But you did though… VISUAL [01:24 Contador looking back]

#8: TV Car Crash

In a scarier incident which took place during stage 9 of the Tour de France in 2011, a television car from a French tv network would suddenly swerve in the middle of the road and come into direct contact with one cyclist who fell and then hit another who was sent flying into a fence. The two individuals, Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland, sustained serious injuries but were able to finish the stage. The tour’s director, Christian Prudhomme, blamed the car’s driver for the incident, stating that they did not heed the directions from the race’s radio channel, which all television cars are supposed to actively listen to and follow. The driver of the car was subsequently excluded from covering the remainder of the race. What’s most shocking was that this wasn’t the only time a vehicle hit a bike that year during the race, as a motorbike carrying a photographer during an earlier stage was mere inches beside a peloton to capture a snapshot, but instead it ended with a wipeout.

#7: Eddy Merckx Gets Punched

This five time Tour de France winner wound up getting sucker punched by a fan who was near the road in 1975. Following the attack, in a true testament to his resilience, Merckx would catch his breath and complete the stage. However, the damage caused by the punch proved to be significant, as Merckx went on to claim he experienced breathing problems during the remainder of the race. The perpetrator, Nello Breton, would claim in court that he was pushed and merely struck Merckx by accident, but this notion was dismissed by the judge and he was ordered to pay Merckx the symbolic fine of one single franc for damages.

#6: Bernard Hinault vs. Greg LeMond

In 1985, American rider Greg LeMond voiced his support for his teammate, Bernard Hinault, to win the Tour de France. Hinault would reciprocate the gesture by promising that he would do the same for LeMond the following year. But come that time, Hinault would seemingly go back on the promise he made the previous year. Although LeMond went on to win it all, his road to victory and the victory itself was overshadowed by the conflict he was suddenly embroiled in with his teammate, as well as the subsequent press coverage.

#5: 2021 Tour De France Crash

Crashes are commonplace during this competition, but none have ever been quite like this. German cyclist Tony Martin was riding through the race’s first stage and was suddenly hit by a sign that a woman put in his way to show to a TV camera. He fell, resulting in an entire peloton of cyclists to naturally tumble down. The incident went viral, with some going so far as to call it the worst crash in Tour de France history. The fan was arrested and fined 1200 euros. Some things are just not worth doing to get air time.

#4: The Tragedy of Tom Simpson

In what is arguably the most tragic event covered on our list, British cyclist Tommy Simpson was in the midst of completing a mountain stage of the 1967 Tour De France when he suddenly collapsed from heat exhaustion, dehydration and fatigue. Upon being checked by a doctor, Simpson was taken to a hospital where, after further examinations, was pronounced dead. An autopsy indicated he had traces of amphetamines in his blood, and investigators uncovered drugs in both the pockets of the jersey he wore to race and his hotel room. An icon in British cycling, his untimely death marked the end of a remarkable career filled with promise that was cut too soon.

#3: The 2006 Tour De France

The whole event of that year was plagued with several controversies, revolving primarily around…you guessed it, doping. This edition of the Tour de France was overshadowed by two events. The first, Operación Puerto, a drug operation (that is still very much pertinent in the world of cycling today) where several cyclists obtained blood transfusions from Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Many of those cyclists were participating in the Tour de France and were subsequently dismissed. And then, weeks later, the winner of that year’s Tour De France, Floyd Landis, was stripped of his title because he was using banned substances during the race. Spending nearly $2 million dollars to attempt to clear his name in court while claiming his innocence, it was to no avail. Years later, Landis would admit to using performance enhancing drugs not only during that race, but for the majority of his career. In short, the 2006 Tour De France was another dark chapter in the competition’s highly scandalous history.

#2: Lance Armstrong

The name of this entry already says it all. For years, rumors circulated that arguably the most successful and popular cyclist in history had been using performance enhancing drugs throughout the majority of his career. After several testimonials from past associates and the release of a scathing report from The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong wouldn’t contest the charges placed against him and was stripped of all of his achievements, including his then-record 7 Tour de France titles. He would later publicly confess to using performance enhancing drugs during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. But we’re not sure what’s worse: the fact that he cheated all this time or that he’d do it all over again if he could.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Michel Pollentier
This Belgian Cyclist Was Removed From the Competition in 1978 For Trying to Dupe a Drug Test

Attack on Maurice Garin
A Group of Masked Culprits Attacked This Cyclist During The Competition in 1904

Shortcut Frenzy
Several Riders Are Punished For Riding Trains and Using Cars to Get to the Finish Line in 1904

The Michael Rasmussen Fraud Case
This Race Leader Was Kicked Off His Team Mid-Race in 2007 For Not Revealing His Whereabouts The Month Prior

The PDM Scandal
It Was Uncovered that the Dutch Cycling Team PDM Had Been Using Banned Substances While Competing in the Tour De France in 1988

#1: The Festina Affair

A rather earth shattering scandal unfolded quite simply. During the Tour de France in 1998, a masseur of the French cycling team Festina was driving through customs and was stopped by officials for a routine check. What they uncovered was nothing short of shocking, as they found 400 bottles and capsules of performance enhancing supplements. While members and reps of the Festina team denied any wrongdoing, further investigations and searches into their hotel rooms proved otherwise, and the team had been banned from participating in the competition. This in turn resulted in other teams being investigated, and they either also received a ban or pulled out of the race to avoid punishment. The incident not only tarnished France’s reputation in the world of cycling, but it also instigated paranoia and raised awareness towards cyclists using performance enhancing drugs at an all time high.

Sign in to access this feature