The Tour de France faces its first rest day on Monday (July 11) with many overall favourites bandaged or abandoned due to crashes. Sky’s Bradley Wiggins was the first to abandon, followed by Alexandre Vinokourov and Jurgen Van den Broeck today.

Overall favourites Cadel Evans, Fränk and Andy Schleck and Ivan Basso are the only favourites to have avoided crashing in the first nine days.

Sky’s bad luck continued today when a press car hit Juan Antonio Flecha to crash. Flecha was part of a five-man escape, but he and Johnny Hoogerland flew to the side of the road with 36 kilometres to race of the ninth leg to Saint Flour.

Flecha finished 16-32 minutes behind stage winner Luis León Sánchez and new race leader Thomas Voeckler. Team Sky’s principal, David Brailsford asked Flecha and his team not to speak to the press.

“He’s not going to say anything,” said Brailsford, who ran beside and protected Flecha at the finish line. “There’s no use asking.”

Cycling Weekly asked sports director, Steven De Jongh what he saw from the following car. He told us the team asked him not to comment on the delicate matter.

The dark blue Citroën, press number 800, arrived in Saint Flour just before the riders. We saw three distinctive dents on the side where it had hit Flecha. The France 2 TV car was overtaking the escape with its left side on the grass. It headed towards a tree and jerked right suddenly, hitting Flecha.

“One has to question [race organiser] ASO and their procedures regarding their guests,” Sean Yates said.

“The last two days, Steven De Jongh, who’s been behind the break always, said it’s a joke the amount of VIP cars there. The rider comes first. If they are going to possibly kill him, we have to ask questions.”

Johnny Hoogerland crash, Tour de France 2011, stage nine

Johnny Hoogerland ends up tangled with barbed wire in a field on stage nine

Earlier in the stage, with 106 kilometres to race, Vinokourov and Van den Broeck were part of a large crash. Vinokourov (Astana) abandoned with a fractured thighbone, Van den Broeck (OmegaPharma-Lotto) shoulder blade, Frederik Willems (Omega Pharma-Lotto) collarbone and David Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervélo) wrist.

Three-time winner Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard) crashed with 120 kilometres to race. The Spaniard collided with Russian Vladimir Karpets (Katusha).

“I am worried, I have pain in that [right] knee. I will need to recover. I thought it wasn’t bad at first, but it started to get worse,” Contador said to press after the stage.

“It’s not been my Tour.”

The Tour de France faces its first of two reset days tomorrow, but still has two more stages before it reaches its first high mountain stages in the Pyrenees. Those stages and the following ones in the Alps will play large role in deciding this year’s winner, but the crashes in the last nine days will have also played their part.

Virtual GC favourites and their crashes:
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), 00″, none
Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek), 3″, none
Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek), 11″, none
Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), 12″, stage 9 crash
Andreas Klöden (RadioShack), 17″, 9 back injuries
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), 1’10”, none
Robert Gesink (Rabobank), 1’35”, 5 lower back injuries
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-SunGard), 1’41”, 5 & 9, knee problems
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo), 2’27”, 9 cuts and bruises.
Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), 4’50”, 5, 6 & 7
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervélo), 7’07”, 7
Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack), DNF 5, fractured collarbone
Bradley Wiggins (Sky), DNF 7, fractured collarbone
Chris Horner (RadioShack), 5 & DNS 8, broke his nose
Jurgen Van den Broeck (OmegaPharma-Lotto), DNF 9, fractured shoulder blade
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), DNF 9, fractured thighbone

Alexandre Vinokourov injured, Tour de France 2011, stage nine

Alexandre Vinokourov’s Tour ends at the roadside

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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  • Ken Evans

    22 teams X 9 riders = 198 starters

    If reduce by 10 or 20 riders, then maybe fewer crashes.

    e.g. 20 teams X 9 riders = 180 starters
    e.g. 22 teams X 8 riders = 176 starters

    Having fewer teams, means less team vehicle traffic.
    Having fewer riders per team, means less control of race by strong teams.

  • Tom

    Not only is it sad to see so many top athletes being injured, but that it is often motor vehicles causing the problems. The mayhem of theTour is enough without the added cinfusion of so many different vehicles (2 wheeled or otherwise) on the roads. These people train so hard to get to this level, and their career (worse still, their lives) can be snuffed out with one false move. Cycling can be a dangerous sport, we all know that, but why add any more danger to it. Authorities stamp down on the press cars, and teams protect your riders, you’re paying them, they are your responsibility.

  • Mark N

    When we go and watch the Tour by the side of the road, the thing that you notice is the number of vehicles that follow the Tour – it’s almost like they are more important than the poor cyclists. It really is disgraceful – do we really need that many vehicles ? Team cars, I understand, motorbikes with photographers I understand, commissaires, yes – everyone else, no. Who was in that vehicle ? Did they need to “follow” the race besides the riders ?

    ASO needs to consider this very carefully and massively reduce the number of vehicles allowed on the course at the same time as the cyclists as it is out of hand – this was an accident just waiting to happen.

  • Hadyn Bosher @ 78 in Thailand

    Too many cars and motorbikes now, it’s got definately out of hand brings to mindwhen Scot Sunderland got knocked off,think it was his own team car as well.!!!

  • Peter Harrison

    I can only agree completely with Whele. Having fractured my acetabulum in two places (pelvis), broken 6 ribs in four places in each one and fractured and displaced my collarbone I know the trauma that Vino will have been going through. I have no idea what his manager and team members were doing trying to get him up the hill walking- the further damage caused to him will only have caused further complications and internal bleeding.
    When will riders and managers learn that in the case of serious accidents riders should not be moved without medical supervision – lives could be lost and have been in the past.

  • Whele

    I write in utter dismay at the carnage I have watched unfold in our sport recently.
    It seems it’s Permitted to treat cycle racers in a way that would bring prosecution for cruelty if a animal was subjected to such negligence.
    Of course, there will always be crashes in cycle racing , but on the TV this week we have seen two riders placed back on their bike by team managers with obvious signs of serious concussion. Tom Bonen was sick for two days following falling on his head, but still allowed to continue to race, whilst Chris Horner was clearly unable to comprehend where he was or what had happened. Today I have seen Alexandre Vinokourov with a fractured thighbone and fractured pelvis being walked to an ambulance by his team manager and another team member. I see the image of Tommy Simpson every time I see the team managers doing this.
    What has happened to common sense? Is there no knowldge of the trauma induces by their actions? Is it not common knowledge that a blow to the head can cause epidural hemorrhaging? Surely the race medics have some accountability.
    Finally I welcome the day when there is just the race commesares cars, team cars and three or four video bikes. Surely in this day of modern technology, newspapers can take their images from the video. it would certainly improve the viewers and spectators experience, sometimes it’s more like MotoGP than a bike race. It may prevent carnage like we saw in today’s Tour, if veicles were kept to a minimum.