Tour car crash: Sky consider ALL their options, French police investigate, Hoogerland & Flecha aim to ride on

Hoogerland reveals post-crash nightmare, but his team accept TV company apology over the incident

by Tony Farrelly   July 11, 2011  

Flecha hit by car TDF Stage 9 credit Sporza.jpg

Team Sky has not ruled out taking legal action over the incident in which a car belonging to French TV station hit Juan Antonia Flecha during stage 9 of this year's Tour de France… however, they have not ruled it in either.

In the incident witnessed by millions of television viewers a car belonging to the France 2/3 TV station attempted to pass the leading break at speed on a narrow section of road 35Km from the finish - against the orders of the race directeur, Christian Prudhomme. Disaster struck mid-manoevre when the driver pulled in sharply to avoid a roadside tree clipping Flecha causing him to crash and send Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland of the Vacansoleil DCM team cartwheeling in to a barbed wire fence. Tour organisers ASO immediately suspended the car and it's driver from the rest of the race.

Speaking at a press conference during today's rest day at the team hotel in the Massif Central, Dave Brailsford, the Sky Team Principal said that before considering all their options Sky would first seek to establish the facts:

"It was plain for everyone to see - that crash shouldn't have happened. Everybody saw it, everyone saw the severity of it so I don't think we need to fan the flames of that anymore.

"Once you've got the facts then you can decide and evaluate.

"We're jumping ahead of ourselves if we start talking about options at this point - we've got to determine what they are first.

"And only when we have a clear picture can we decide which option we may or may not wish to pursue."

When pressed on the possibility of legal action Brailsford said:

"All the options includes anything you can think of."

All the options is all the options."

Whild some rest day rumour suggested that Vacansoleil had not are not ruled out legal action a rather more solid report in the Dutch Der Telegraaf newspaper quotes team manager general manager Daan Luijkx saying that the team had accepted France 2/3's apology for the incident and would not be taking the matter any further

"We are currently only concerned with the sports section of the Tour. We work hard to keep Johnny on the bike. This is a priority," he told the newspaper. Luijkx went on to say that they would be contacting the AIGCP (the team managers association) to call for a reduction in the number of cars and motor bikes allowed in the race.

Hoogerland meanwhile had 33 stitches in deep gashes to his legs caused by the barbed wire fence that eventually broke his fall "It could be worse" said the Dutchman today. And although the pictures of the injuries he sustained yesterday were horrific he in undoubtedly right. Hoogerland intends to start stage 10 and see how his body holds up. Today though he certainly wasn't in the mood for giving up. He revealed to Der Telegraaf that he had only four hours sleep on Sunday night as he first replayed the incident in his head and was then plagued by nightmares in which he broke his back on the fence pole and ended up a paraplegic.

As to Flecha's continued participation in the Tour, no final decision has been made, but the mood music coming from Sky HQ suggests that barring complications the Spanish rider will continue and ride tomorrow's stage from Aurillac to Carmaux. X-rays carried out today confirmed that Flecha did not fracture his elbow and he confirmed at the team press conference that he wants to ride on.

'Tomorrow I'll be able to ride, how well I don't know but I really don't care.

'At first I want to see how everything goes. I'm thinking more long term.

'I'm more concerned about the Pyrenees. I can't bypass the Pyrenees.'

The injury most likely to affect him on the bike is the cut to his knee which required a stitch in hospital this morning to have the best chance of heaingl properly Flecha's knee needs a dressing that could inhibit his pedalling action.

Meanwhile the public prosecutor in Aurilliac has confirmed that an investigation has been opened and witnesses interviewed – including the driver of the car (which according to unsubstantiated rumours doing the rounds today contained paying VIPs wanting to get closer to the action). Police are keen to speak to all the riders and anyone else involved in the incident before the Tour moves out of the area tomorrow.

As well as the numerous crashes that have plagued the first week of this year's Tour and led to so many riders abandoning through injury, the race has now also suffered two serious lapses of safety involving in-race vehicle. This must surely be a cause for concern to organisers ASO and Christian Prudhomme the race director in particular. Up until now the Tour de France has enjoyed a remarkable safety record considering the numbers of people and vehicles involved all often travelling at different speeds over narrow country roads. ASO prides itself on the strictness of its rules and the strictness of their application, it may well be that in an ever more pressurised enviornment those sanctions are no longer enough to deter recklessness by some of those working within the race.

 

 

8 user comments

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Can't fail to be both impressed and humbled by the courage and dignity displayed by Johnny Hoogerland. As bad as they were, thankfully both his and Flecha's injuries weren't anything more serious. A full and speedy recovery to them both. Bon courage.

cavasta's picture

posted by cavasta [193 posts]
11th July 2011 - 20:29

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This just goes to show how hard these boys are. They may not weigh much, and compared to footballers they do not earn much, but in the same comparison you do not see them rolling over after a slight tap of the ankle.

Safety needs to be upgraded for the tour. More care needs to be taken as they get faster each year.

I hope both riders manage to complete their goals and recover quickly without to much pain.

Hats off to all on the tour, and good luck to all participating.

Kev Foulds

Cycling Nutter

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posted by Kevin Foulds [7 posts]
12th July 2011 - 8:31

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You beat me to it, Kevin. I lost interest in football a long time ago. The game is boring and the players are awful. Cyclists are true sportsmen.

Maybe technology will provide an alternative to cars next to the Tour. Time for unmanned drones to fly alongside the race transmitting footage.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
12th July 2011 - 8:47

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Nit: It's "De Telegraaf", not "Der Telegraaf".

posted by Paul J [512 posts]
12th July 2011 - 10:12

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One report I've read has it that the French TV car was carrying paying VIP guests, out for a day's jolly and keen to get close up to the action. Maybe a clash of interests there, between rider's safety and the demands made by guests (not to mention the promises made by their hosts)?

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posted by cavasta [193 posts]
12th July 2011 - 10:42

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Chris Anker Sørensen got dragged off his bike by a press bike now this. Far too many press now on the tour in my opinion. Watch the TV pictures when riders get dropped off the back of the peleton, the press bikes are ordered to stay back as not to 'slipstream the riders' back into the pack - There are hundreds of them all lined up along the left of the road. As for VIP's.. Jeez - Well it's inevitable i guess in today's heat magazine society where you have famous sitting in the first 5 rows of a theater, or stage left at a gig, sadly cycling isn't any different. Riders are demanding better salaries which in turn gives them higher status, more press means more time in the limelight, in turn people know who they are, resulting in 'VIP' wanting to experience the race. You don't have VIP's riding round the track behind Jenson Button and Sebastien Betel so why on a cycle race?

As for the race, the car and it's affiliated press organisation should off the tour. Poor old
J Hoogerland was lucky not to be paralysed for life in this incident, if he'd have hit a post instead of the wire it would be a very different story, and on putting on his polka dot jersey you could see he knew that.

The incident was unforgivable, Flecha injured unnecessarily and could have also put pay to his tour, although i think Flecha came off better than Hoogerland. The incident would be between Sky and the organisation behind the car and it's driver, although i would urge Vacon Soleil to put pressure on Sky to press charges.

For both Flecha and Hoogerland to finish that stage, let alone start again today is unparalleled in any other sport. Cycling is pure endurance for the body, and a psychological mountain for all riders, couple this with death defying descents at 100Kmh and the ability to repeat this over 3 weeks is quite unbelievable. Every time i climb a ascent or spend 5 / 6 hours in the saddle it reminds me of how touch these guys really are - Football isn't a sport anymore, it's an advert for nike.

Cervelo S1, Zipp 404, SRAM Rival/Force, Rotor crankset and Vittoria.

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posted by stuartpeck1 [98 posts]
12th July 2011 - 11:47

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Further reading has confirmed to me they have indeed chucked them off the race Applause

Cervelo S1, Zipp 404, SRAM Rival/Force, Rotor crankset and Vittoria.

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posted by stuartpeck1 [98 posts]
12th July 2011 - 11:52

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good on jhonny hooergeland, keeping the KofM jersey when he had almost died some hours earlier Cool

hi

posted by cool guy 999 [54 posts]
12th July 2011 - 17:49

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