2011 Tour de France: Stage 9 Carnage

If the “defining moment” last year was a breach of Tour etiquette in the mountains, the first week of this year’s Tour de France has been notable for the number of bone-crushing crashes and big name retirements.   Most of the crashes, but not all, have been caused by road conditions and/or rider error.  

It’s a rest day today, after 9 testing stages, and the cyclist welcoming that respite the most has to be Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland.  In yesterday’s stage he was part of 5-man break-away, a good 5 minutes in front of the peloton with around 36 km to go, when a France TV car wiped out Sky’s Juan-Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland ended tangled upside-down in a barbed wire fence by the roadside.  The commentary is by the excellent ITV 4 team of Chris Boardman Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett.

From an Iol Sport South Africa report

Furious Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said the car had failed to heed directives on the race’s official radio channel and so was thrown off the race.

The television company involved apologised for the incident.

“France Television apologises to the riders, the teams and to the ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) for the accident during the ninth stage of the Tour de France which was caused by a technical assistance vehicle covering the race,” said a statement.

“France Television will respect fully the measures which will be taken by the ASO to improve safety.”

At least 7 riders abandoned the Tour on Sunday. Including Astana’s Alexandr Vinokourov with a broken femur.

Flecha and Hoogerland finished the stage together, some 16 minutes behind the stage winner, fellow escapee Luis-León Sánchez, and were jointly given the ‘fighting spirit’ award of the day.  Another member of the break-away, Thomas Voeckler, was rewarded with the maillot jaune. Here’s a heavily-bandaged Hoogerland, later to have 33 stitches in his legs, accepting his award as well as the polka-dot ‘King of the Mountains’ jersey.