In case you have not been following this year’s Tour de France, we thought we would recap some of the carnage of what has to be one of the most wreck-plagued TDFs in years. First and foremost is the horrible collision between a television car and several top riders during stage 9 last Sunday. The auto swerved into Sky rider Juan Antonio Flecha, sending him slamming into the others. The worst of the injuries came when Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) went head-over-teakettle into a barbed wire fence. His legs were ripped and bloodied — the man looked like he had just fought a puma. An investigation into the driver of the car is pending.
Said Michale Cornelisse, the sports director of Hoogerland’s Vacansoleil team (via an article on www.abc.net.au), “I just saw him flying through the air. He has deep cuts in his legs, he was going at 60 kilometres per hour, it was unbelievable.” To solidify his status as a tour hero, Hoogerland remounted his bike and rode the 22k remaining in the stage before being sent to the hospital to have his injuries tended to. It was 33 stitches later, but he is back in the race. His standing is currently 84th out of 177 riders.
The dramatic exit of Alexander Vinokourov is another notable “item of TDF carnage.” The Astana rider was doing well, and a definite contender for GC in what was to be his final tour. On a fast descent, he lost control and rode into a ravine where he struck a metal barrier, breaking his femur. After recently rejoining the peleton following a 2008 doping scandal, this is major disappointment for both he and his team.
And let’s not forget the day-one crash of last year’s winner, Alberto Contador. When a 13-year-old fan poked his head out to see the action, he caused a crash that put Contador a full 1 minute 14 seconds behind his rivals — right out of the gates. With the kind of class we expect from the sport’s heros, Contador forgave the youngster and warned him to be more careful in the future. Unfortunately, the mishap may have cost him the race. Also unfortunate are the handful of other crashes that Contador has been involved in this year.
These are but a few of the many ugly crashes this Tour. With the broken wrists, collarbones, femurs, shoulder blades, and other injuries, this year’s TDF should at least serve as a reminder to always wear a helmet, prepare for the worst, and always keep the rubber side down.
—T.C. Worley is an amateur bike racer and professional photographer.