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.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.