TV car incident causes furore in Tour de France peloton
Tour de France riders were furious after two of their number were injured in a crash involving a television car on Sunday’s ninth stage.
Spaniard Juan-Antonio Flecha crashed to the ground while Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland went flying into a barbed-wire fence.
“He was lying in the barbed wire, completely in it, in the barbs, his pants were completely off, he was completely naked,” said Michale Cornelisse, the sports director of Hoogerland’s Vacansoleil team after rescuing his rider from a ditch.
“I just saw him flying through the air. He has deep cuts in his legs, he was going at 60 kph, it was unbelievable.”
Flecha was treated on his bike for an injured elbow while Hoogerland, with his legs bloodied, crossed the line 17 minutes after the stage winner.
The Tour’s new leader, Thomas Voeckler, who witnessed the incident as the car tried to overtake a group of five escapees he was part of, said: “It could have been me.
“Crashes in a descent are understandable, they’re part of the race. I’m not here to cause a controversy but there are enough risks as it is in a bike race without such a regrettable incident,” the Frenchman said.
“Organisers should take measures to protect riders,” said stage winner Luis-Leon Sanchez of Spain.
“Reckless driving is unforgivable in races and everywhere else,” said Leopard-Trek team manager Brian Nygaard.
France Television apologised for the incident on their Facebook page, saying: “We are obviously affected by the accident that occurred today in which a vehicle with the France Television tag on was involved.”
Organisers excluded the car driver from the race.
“Thomas Voeckler asked for a bottle of water and I passed the message to the Europcar team car through the race radio asking the cars in the race to give way,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told Reuters.
“The car (that sent the riders crashing) instead tried to overtake the riders, way too fast, and sent two of them down.
“We apologise to the riders and to the teams. It’s a scandal. There have now been two incidents involving the media on the roads of the Tour de France, and it’s two accidents too many.”
During the fifth stage, a photographer’s motorbike hit Nicki Sorensen and sent him to the ground.
Vacansoleil fellow team manager Hilaire Van der Schueren said the incident had seriously affected their race.
“We went from a situation where we could win the stage, take the climber’s jersey and progress overall to a situation when we don’t know whether Johnny will be able to continue,” he said.
Flecha’s Team Sky officials declined to comment on the incident.
“Everyone’s emotional now. We’ll look at the situation tomorrow and we’ll take the matter forward tomorrow,” said team manager Dave Brailsford.
Flecha and Hoogerland received the meagre consolation of being awarded a prize as the most aggressive riders in the stage.
The stage was earlier tarnished by a big pile-up in the peloton, forcing four men out, and three-times Tour champion Alberto Contador complained that the incident could have been avoided.
“These crashes happen because there is a lot of bad weather, a lot of narrow roads, but the bend should have been signalled,” he said.