One moment Johnny Hoogerland was racing for Tour de France stage victory in a five-man breakaway on stage nine, the next he was cartwheeling through the air onto a barbed wire fence.

36 kilometres from the finish in Saint-Flour, Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) was knocked off by a passing television car, emblazoned with France 2/3 logos. His tumble sent the Vacansoleil rider flying in spectacular fashion.

“It happened in two seconds,” Hoogerland said at the finish.

“The only thing I saw was him flying – it was terrible to see him like that,” Vacansoleil directeur sportif Michel Cornelisse, who had been in the following convoy of cars, told journalists at the finish.

The Dutchman’s legs and lycra were lacerated on the fence. After putting on a new pair of shorts and continuing, Hoogerland was quickly passed by the bunch and jettisoned, fighting to finish 139th, 16-44 down.

“It was shit,” Hoogerland told journalists at the finish. “I’m not angry, as I don’t think it was anyone’s fault. I’m still alive.”

He had some motivation to carry on: having won four of the day’s six King of the Mountain sprints in this Massif Central middle mountain stage, he was in line to pull on the polka-dot jersey for a third time, having worn it for two days after the sixth stage to Lisieux.

Difficult to accept

Still, the bizarre incident was tough for the Vacansoleil team to accept. They are riding the Tour de France for the first time after receiving a wild card, and a stage win would have made their race.

Directeur sportif Cornelisse said: “Firstly, we’re very disappointed. In a break like that, Johnny was very strong and believing in himself. Voeckler was powerful but he was going for the yellow jersey. I wouldn’t say we’d have won it.”

It is a relief to the Vacansoleil manager that there were no worse consequences for Hoogerland. “He crashed at 60km/h, and he was breathing very badly at first. He has to go to hospital now, but first of all, he had nothing broken,” Cornelisse said.

Ultimately, he was acceptant: “What can we do? The race is over now.”

Hoogerland was tearful on the podium as he received a hard-fought King of the Mountains jersey. “I won’t recover in a day, but I’m a Zeelander [region of Holland], we’re not easy to beat,” he said.

Tour de France 2011: Related links

Crashes take toll on Tour’s favourites

Sanchez conquers day of crashes and climbs in the Tour

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index


  • Dave S

    Hoogerland for president

  • Mike Riddell

    Hoogerland for sports personality of the year. The dignity with which he spoke after such a traumatic incident puts many so called sportsmen and women to shame.

  • stuart stanton

    At this rate of casualties, Desgrange’s original wish to produce a Tour de France so demanding that only one rider would survive, is going to come very near to being realised. David Millar looked as wasted as any rider I have ever seen at the end of Sunday’s stage. Has anyone mentioned Riviere’s crash in 1960 which almost killed him? Not too far away geographically from the site of Vinikourov’s disaster

  • Richard Hale

    it’s simply outrageous that in ushc a high profile sporting event such things are left to chance. that a support car which is not supposed to be there, has the possibility of knocking over the leading riders, is simply beyond comprehension. Without doubt give the riders the same time as the group – they were incredibly strong to get back on and into the race.

  • Andrew Hague

    I agree 100% with the calls for Flecha and Hoogerland to be given the same time as the group that they were in. It seems obvious to me, much more obvious than the rule which compensates in the same way for crashes in the final 3km of a stage. There is no doubt whatsoever that they would have finished with Voeckler et al. In face with them in the mix it’s almost certain that the winning time would have been even quicker.

  • Pete Walker

    It certainly was a hit and run incident (as we clearly saw on the TV coverage) and I can’t understand why the police did not immediately stop the driver from continuing. Giving the two crashed riders the same finish time as the breakaway group would be a worthy gesture of fair play, but is probably too radical for the race organisation (which after all has allowed the roads within the Tour to become so crowded by potentially dangerous race vehicles) to contemplate.

  • Lynne

    What a great idea to give Fletcha and Hoogerland the same time. It would not make up for their injuries but would bring some justice to the incident. They are both good riders who would have been at least been there at the finish to contest for the stage win.

    I sincerely hope the driver is severly dealt with for an act of gross recklessness and stupidity! They are very lucky the riders were not more seriously injured. I was stunned they drove off and didn’t even check the riders were ok! At least the driver of the tour car following the group had his wits about him.

    Maybe next year, the press drivers (bike or car) should take an ‘advanced’ type course on Bike Race Awareness?

  • Richard Lupton

    What was a non-Le Tour Offical Vehicle doing there anyway? I thought only the offical camera bike and any designated commissaires/judges/race officials are allowed past the lead riders – oh, and other riders attacking of course. Not even the team cars are supposed to be ahead of the race leader/s!

    If a media car does go past, then that is down to poor policing by the race organisation and absolutely no fault of the riders. In which case, I agree, they should be given the benefit of the doubt and get the same time as at least the last of the breakaway riders. If not that, then definately the main bunch time.

  • steve wilson

    Just how tough are these guys!, however I can’t understand how the driver wasn’t stopped immediately by the gendarmerie. This was the clearest case of a hit & run I could imagine and wreckless driving is the minimum the driver should expect, along with compensation claims from both riders and also there teams

  • alex

    I’m sure the law is different in France, but why wasn’t the driver arrested? Careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident? Looked like a hit and run to me.

  • Bernard Victor

    I strongly agree with Tony Danson that these two very brave riders should be given the same time as the Thomas Voeckler group. I am sure that they would have been up there at the finish if it had not been for this stupid accident which was not their fault in any way.

  • Geoff Myers

    I just hope that Hoogerland and Fletcha will both be OK what happened is totally unacceptable

    Mind you anyone who has ever driven in France will not be remotely surprised by the drivers actions.

    All French drivers seem to have an inbuilt need to be in front on what ever is in front of them, in fact they remind me of Jack Russell terriers being taken for a walk, “me first, me first ”

    I should point out that I am a total Francophile I love the people the country and their culture, BUT their driving is surreal to say the least!

  • Addy Timnus

    The driver is very lucky he didn’t kill anyone, when I saw Hoogerland go I thought the worst, especially with the wooden fence post sticking up. Flecha is an absolute gent for apologising and both riders should be give the same time. However with only one rest day I don’t think it will more more than a gesture, but one worth giving.

  • Peter Chadwick

    I agree with Tony Danson. Both Hoogerland and Flecha should be given the same time as the Voeckler group. That would ensure some kind of justice. Presumably the French police will have something to say/do with regard to the dangerous and reckless driving involved in the incident. The French are more protective of their cyclists.

  • Hadyn Bosher @ 78in Thailand

    RE. Tony Danson.Good surgestion about same time,as the accident was due to offcial tour entourage that’s the least they can do!!! they could have been killed,what then???.the organisation don’t know how lucky they are.BUT I doubt it will happen.

  • White Rose

    The dignity with which Flecha and Hoogerland dealt with this was exemplary. Maybe certain footballers should be shown this so they can learn how to behave in public. This was a potentially career threatening incident for both riders and yet Flecha apologised to Hoogerland for knocking him off!

  • Tony Danson

    After yesterday’ s fiasco in the tour I would hope the Tour Officials decide to give Johnny Hoogerland & Juan Antonio Flecha the same time as Thomas Voeckler group, It was certainly not classed as a racing incident more one of stupidity
    I believe that the whole field would find it justifiable if these where given the same result
    Let’s hope the Tour Officials see common sense

  • Cavologuardi

    Chute alors! Cyclist sent cartwheeling into the gutter by a careless driver – just like the daily commute then.

  • Adam

    This is incomprehensible… How can a driver covering the tour take out the leaders – I am SO angry for the riders…

  • Sean

    Hoogerland and Flecha and both tough men to finish the stage after that crash.