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.”
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.