Are spectators and selfies ruining the Tour de France?

Tour de France cyclists decry selfies and spectators getting too close

Germany's Marcel Kittel, who won Stage 4 of the Tour de France on Tuesday, has complained about spectators 'in the middle of the road taking pictures.'

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Cycling has taken a figurative beating in recent years thanks to some high-profile scandals, but so far during this year's Tour de France, the beatings have been a bit more literal -- for both competitors and spectators.

Take Stage 2 on Sunday in England, for instance.

A spectator -- apparently standing with his foot over the white line -- got absolutely clobbered by a passing cyclist. The rider was fortunate enough not to crash; the fate of the fan is unclear.

Or take Stage 3 on Monday, from Cambridge to London.

Luxembourg cyclist and 2010 Tour de France champion Andy Schleck was involved in a group crash on that leg that, according to The Guardian website, happened "after a spectator in Essex stepped into the road to take photographs." The paper says Schleck's team isn't blaming the fan, but Schleck had to withdraw from the race regardless:

It's unclear if any of these fans were attempting a so-called selfie, but some cyclists are speaking out about the practice, complaining of its risks.

American rider Tejay Van Garderen took to Twitter to decry what he called "a dangerous mix of vanity and stupidity":

British cyclist Geraint Thomas was a bit harsher in his assessment, telling The Telegraph that mixing selfies with live cycling is "the new pain in the a--."

"The worst thing is when people have got their back to the peloton (the group of riders) taking selfies. There were a few. They don't see us coming, they're stood in the road and it's dodgy. If you want to do that, stand on a wall or something. ... (Spectators) don't realize we use every part of the road. There are a lot of us, and we use every inch. ... I think people need to realize we take up the whole road. If you want to go and do that, go and sit in a tree. ... There's not much racing on British road, and people don't understand how fast we're going and how close we get."  

German competitor Marcel Kittel, who won Stage 4 in France on Tuesday, also complained earlier in the week to The Telegraph about fans "in the middle of the road taking pictures," and Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara told the paper that "police should do something about it ... because our health is in danger."

Cycling is a dangerous enough sport as it is; just ask defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who fell during Stage 4 after a collision with another rider. He was fortunate enough to be able to return to action:

Spectators might want to start thinking twice before endangering both themselves and the competitors they're cheering.

(H/t to For the Win, Bleacher Report, The Guardian and The Telegraph for the story)

The Associated Press contributed.