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Sunday, 10 July 2011

What an aweful day on the road.

Todays 9th stage of the Tour de France was marred by a couple of incidents which were bad, but could have been much worse.

The first was a crash involving a number of riders where it looks like someone overcooked it on a bend and went down. Others followed but the problem was they were on the outside of the bend on a descent and many went over the barrier and down the hill. Astanas Alexandre Vinkourov was one of those and he has had to abandon with a fractured femur and possible broken hip. A horrible end to what he was billing as his last TdF. Also involved were Dave Zabriskie of Garmine Cervelo (retired with fractured wrist) , Omega Pahrma Lotto leader Jurgen Van Den Broek (retired with broken shoulder blade) and Frederik Willems also of Omega Pharma Lotto (retired- broken collar bone). Others went down in tbe crash including David Millar of Garmin Cervelo but were able to continue.

Whilst this was going on, a breakaway including the ultimate winner of the stage Thomas Voekler of Europcar, Sandy Cassar of Francais des Jeaux, Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil DCM, Juan Antonio Flecha of Team Sky were up the road some 4 or 5 minutes.

In another moment of madness, a TV car started to pass some of the breakaway riders on their left. It suddenly swerved to avoid a tree the driver obviously hadn't noticed, colliding with Flecha who went down heavily on the road. As he did so, Hoogerland was unable to avoid him and hit him, sending him off the road and tangling him up with a barbed wire fence. Flecha was able to get up and running again quite quickly but Hoogerland needed extracating from the fence. Elsewhere on the web are images of Johnny tangled in the fence and with his shorst ripped to shreds. I'm not going to link to them because they are not pleasant for Johnny but, the evidence of his pain is there to see. Later footage showed him with blood streaming down his legs whilst one of the Tour doctors treats him on the move. It turned out he needed a total of 33 stiches in various injuries to his calf, buttocks and thigh. He finished the stage 16'44" down, 139th of 180 finishers. His efforts today saw him taking the King of the Mountains jersey. He was quite tearful on the podium. In his interview after the presentation he was very composed and forgiving of the driver. He put things in perspective reminding everyone that he and the others were still alive. Other incidents this year have been worse. Respect to Johnny.

Tomorrow is a rest day and hopefuly the time will enable a lot of sore riders to recover. It will also give Christian Prudhomme, the Tour Director, time to decide what he and the Tour staff are going to do to reduce the risk posed to the riders by dodgy drivers/ moto riders. Two incidents this Tour are two too many.

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