POMAREZ, FRANCE—The 2010 Tour de France was canceled Friday morning following an incident during Stage 18 in which an unidentified automobile somehow found its way onto the course, struck each competing rider, and sped off without stopping.
"I can't believe someone would do that," said Saxo Bank team leader Andy Schleck, who was with the lead riders in the peloton when the four-door vehicle pulled out directly in front of them. "He came from a side road, just cut right across us without looking, and the next thing I knew I was flying over the hood. He didn't even slow down, just turned into traffic and kept going."
"Fucking asshole," Schleck added.
The car, which French authorities said was a dull yellow American-made sedan of the type commonly used in service fleets and most likely a taxicab, was then seen to accelerate through the race course, where it allegedly struck the camera motorcycle, three team cars carrying spare bicycles, and every cyclist remaining in the Tour before disappearing down the road.
"It didn't even look like the guy was paying attention," said Spain's Samuel Sanchez, who was in third place at the time of the incident. "What kind of jerk just drives away like that? Even if he wasn't looking, he must have at least heard something."
"Jesus, my bike is completely trashed," Sanchez added. "I don't know if I'll be able to afford a new one and it'll probably be just as expensive to get this fixed. I sure as shit know that prick isn't going to pay for it."
None of the riders, various media representatives present, or estimated 13,000 fans lining the route were able to get the the car's license plate, though all agreed it was being driven in an extremely erratic fashion.
Many pedestrians who witnessed the 171-bike hit-and-run reported seeing the driver reaching for something in his backseat and talking on a cell phone at the time of the incident.
"I was not exactly certain what had happened," said Cervelo Test rider Jeremy Hunt. "I was trying to get a few riders together for a breakaway, but then bang! He just came out of nowhere. Either way, it all comes down to the fact that drivers have no respect for bikes. None. How hard is it to share the road?"
"People just have to be more careful," Hunt added. "You have to know that in France at this time of the year there are going to be a ton of bikes out there."
Race representatives decided to halt the Tour when it became clear that all 171 riders would at least need to be hospitalized. Alberto Contador, who was leading the race by eight seconds at the end of the previous stage, will be declared the posthumous winner in a quiet ceremony atop the Col du Tourmalet Monday.
As of Friday morning, French police had no concrete clues as to the identity of the hit-and-run driver. Greg LeMond and Floyd Landis have accounted for their whereabouts at the time of the incident, though police have not yet ruled them out as possible suspects. However, Interpol officials said they may have detected a pattern in recent international sporting events.
"We are investigating the possibility that this is the same driver responsible for several hit-and-runs during the French Open, the death of three Spaniards and a bull at Pamplona, and the vehicular homicides on the pitch during this year's World Cup final." special investigator Jean de Valery told reporters. "Then again, he may just be a normal motorist. Bicyclists can often be very annoying."