Sunday, 10 July 2011

What the heck is going on with Tour de France vehicles? #tdf

Earlier in this Tour de France, on stage five, we saw a motorbike wipe out the bike of Nicki Sørensen. The bike disconnected from the motorbike 200m down the road and the rider came to gentle stop after sliding on the crash verge.



The pilot of that motorbike was thrown off the Tour before he had a change to reach Cap Fréhel the end of that stage.

Today we have just witnessed a far worse case. With just over 36km to go a French TV car swerved to avoid hitting a tree. Only problem was it was beside the breakaway, which included Thomas Voeckler who was the virtual leader of the Tour on the road, he only needed 1'30" but was up over 4 minutes at the time, and Johnny Hoogerland who had taken the lead of the King of the Mountains on points and should have been unstoppable before getting to the end of the stage.

However, the car took out Juan Antonio Flecha of Sky who was leading the breakaway who crashed unto the road. The knock on effect was that Hoogerland somersaulted off his bike and into a barbed-wire fence, ripping his shorts completely off and leaving a number of deep gashes. If it had taken out Voeckler as well it would have been a car, not a cyclist that decided the Tour on today's stage.



Johnny Hoogerland looks hurt but is cycling on behind the main pack who caught him. I hope he can make the last 20km or so and pull on the Polka Dot Jersey at the line and does not need to abandon. I hope he can recover tomorrow on the rest day and start in his newly acquired jersey. But he should have been riding conformtable with the other three and Flecha towards the finish as I'm typing this not a minute off the back of the main pack.

As for the driver of the car, he should have applied the brakes not swerved, but I expect he will be thinking about that now as he heads home rather than following the rest of the race.

However, we have a number of cyclists die, or be seriously injured, this year through racing or training accidents. What we do not need is cars or motorbikes that accompany the show case cycling event adding to that number, we have been lucky so far this Tour, that is all I can say.

Update Both Johnny Voogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha have been awarded the Most Combative Rider prize for today. The award for fighting spirit normally goes to the most agressive rider. But having faced a car crash and kept riding well deserved.

Update 2 The car has indeed been thrown off the Tour. With the memory of Wouter Weylandt Hoogerland said to Flecha as they rode together towards the finish "We're still alive and Wouter Weylandt died in a crash."

However, other details of the incident did arise, as can be seen shortly after the crash the team cars came up to pprovide water to the teams. Over race radio the TV car has been told to pull back to allow the team cars past, but instead disobeyed and tried to go past instead.

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