David Zabriskie and Frederik Willems crash, Tour de France 2011, stage nine

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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