Driver involved in Flecha/Hoogerland crash expelled from Tour de France
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Driver involved in Flecha/Hoogerland crash expelled from Tour de France

by Shane Stokes at 3:18 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Injury
No comment for now from teams, Hoogerland gives his reaction

Juan Antonio FlechaHaving considered the serious incident involving a France Television 2/3 car plus Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha, the expected decision has been taken to exclude the vehicle and its driver from the race. The race organisers and the jury of commisaires have announced this evening that Euro Media car number 800 has been ejected from the Tour de France.

The car, belonging to France Television 2/3, overtook the day's break with 37 kilometres to go. It went past the riders with two wheels on the grass but swung in suddenly to avoid a tree growing on the verge; in doing so, it clipped Flecha (Sky Procycling) and caused Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) to be thrown sideways and to land on a barbed wire fence. Both riders were able to finish the stage, but were injured and lost the chance of fighting it out for the victory and also gaining time on the bunch.

They were jointly awarded the most aggressive rider award afterwards as some sort of consolation for what they had been through. Hoogerland also retook the polka dot jersey of King of the Mountains.

According to Cyclim’Actu, the car had been instructed to allow the Europcar vehicle to give a bottle to Thomas Voeckler, and not to pass. It therefore disobeyed the commands of the commisaires.

The driver is the second to be thrown off the Tour, with a motorbike pilot sent home after a stage four incident involving Nicki Sørensen (Saxo Bank SunGard).

For now, both Sky Procycling and Vacansoleil are delaying their comments. Dave Brailsford said the team wanted to wait. “After the stage everyone's emotional now. We'll look at the situation tomorrow and we'll take the matter forward then.”

Vacansoleil said in a statement that it too would think over things. “After the horrible accident of Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) in the 9th stage of the Tour de France the managment of Vacansoleil-DCM will discuss what has happened tomorrow with the parties involved. No further comments will be made today so that they are not based on emotions,” it stated.

Hoogerland philosophical

Meanwhile Johnny Hoogerland was extremely emotional at the finish, most likely being in shock, and cried after crossing the line. “We can still be happy that we’re alive. It’s horrible. I can blame everyone but I don’t think anyone does this sort of thing on purpose. I think the people in the car will have a very big guilty feeling and they will surely apologize to me and Flecha,” he said. “Juan Antonio came to me and he apologized. It should not happen but it’s always possible that this sort of thing happens.”

Graciously, he avoided criticising the car involved. “Nobody can be blamed for this. It’s a horrible accident and I was in it. But I said to Flecha, ‘We’re still alive and Wouter Weylandt died in a crash’,” he stated. “Cycling is getting more and more hectic which is also nice because more and more people are watching but, for sure, some people will say that it may be like this because… well, I can’t explain it – but I think most people feel very, very bad about this sort of thing.”

Hoogerland was lucky not to be seriously injured. He received medical attention when he got back on his bike, and again after the finish. “I have three cuts that are about seven centimeters long and quite deep too. I’ll go to the hospital now and I think I’ll need about 30 stitches at least…” he said.

“I did what felt like a few somersaults. I don’t know where the car came from. Before I knew it, Flecha was on the ground and there was nothing I could do. I landed on the fence and I looked at my legs and thought, ‘Is this what cycling is about?’ “I have the polka-dot jersey but I’m going to spend the rest day in a lot of pain.”


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