Team Sky are reported to still be waiting for a personal apology from the broadcaster France Télévisions after one of its cars struck Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha as he rode in a breakaway group during Sunday’s Stage 9 of the Tour de France. Sports director Sean Yates confirmed that while the 33 year-old is still in the race, he is still feeling the effect of the injuries suffered in the incident.
The other rider injured in the incident, Vacansoleil-DCM’s Johnny Hoogerland, is also riding despite his legs being cut to ribbons in the crash, and while he began today in the polka dot jersey of best climber, his aim, far from defending that, is simply to complete the race. Hoogerland got only four hours sleep on the night after the crash as he replayed the incident in his mind… things didn't get any better for him last night when the Dutchman was woken in the middle of the night for an unannounced doping control.
Speaking live on Eurosport by telephone from the team car, Yates said of Sunday’s incident: “It was bad and shouldn’t have happened and obviously ASO have taken major steps to avoid that hopefully happening in the future. But in Juan Antonio’s case it’s a bit late in the day for that.”
While France Télévisions have apologised to Vacansoleil and Hoogerland, who came off worse in the incident after being catapulted into a barbed wire fence, Yates was not aware of any similar apology being offered to Flecha or Team Sky.
“As far as I know they’ve not been anywhere,” he said when asked whether it was true that no apology had been forthcoming, “but I couldn’t really couldn’t confirm that. I’ve certainly not heard about it so that may be the case.
As for rumours that Team Sky is considering taking legal action against France Télévisions, Yates said simply: “We’re not talking about that at the moment.”
Sunday’s accident capped a difficult few days for Team Sky, with Edvald Boasson Hagen’s victory in Lisieux on Thursday, the British outfit’s first in cycling’s biggest race, overshadowed by team leader Bradley Wiggins crashing out of the Tour on Friday with a broken collarbone.
Speaking of Wiggins’ reaction to that incident, Yates, himself a former stage winner and maillot jaune, said: “After the initial disappointment life goes on. It’s all about resetting your targets and moving on, he knows what to do now to get back into the shape he was in which was the best shape of his life.”
Asked whether Wiggins might now ride in the Vuelta, Yates said: “There’s a distinct possibility yes but I’m not able to say any more than that at the moment,” adding that his programme between now and the World Championships in Copenhagen in September was still to be decided.
The 51-year-old Yates also confirmed that he’s back in the saddle himself, putting in an eight hour training ride on yesterday’s rest day as he targets the National 12 Hour Time Trial, saying, “If I don’t do it this year, I’ll never do it.”
In the official Stage Communiqué released prior to the start of today’s stage, ASO emphasised that rider safety took precedence above all other considerations and set out the rules that will govern accredited vehicles for the remainder of the race.
“As a consequence of the accident - whose victims were Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha and Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland - that occurred on the road of the Tour and which was caused by a following car, the Race Direction wishes to remind everybody that the safety measures must be strictly respected,” the statement said.
“Those were explained on the eve of the Grand Depart in Vendee and they have been reminded every day during the stage to all the vehicles present in the race through Radio-Tour.
“The concerned vehicle previously received the order from the race Direction not to pass and let Europcar team manager goes to the break to give Thomas Voeckler the bottle he was asking for. They did not take that order into account and went their way, which caused the crash of both riders. Such a behaviour is intolerable.
“The Race Direction decided to once and for all exclude both the vehicle and his pilot.
“The Race Direction wishes to remind that the cars of the Team Managers always have the priority upon all the other vehicles in the race.
“Riders and spectators’ safety must remain the absolute priority. Any refusal to obey the orders given by the Race Direction will automatically end in a definitive exclusion of the vehicle at fault,” it concluded.
In a statement in French first released on Sunday, the broadcaster said: “France Télévisions would like to offer its apologies to the riders, teams and to Amaury Sport Organisation following the accident caused today on the route of Stage 9 of the Tour de France by a support vehicle belonging to its crew covering the race.
“Active for a number of years alongside ASO on the vital challenge that the on-road security of the Tour constitutes, France Télévisions can only strongly regret the incident that happened today and give its full support to the measures that will be taken by ASO to reinforce further the security within and surrounding the race.”
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.