12 July 2011

of crashes and hoogerland's courage

Already an animated and dramatically crash-filled Tour, Sunday's Stage 9 (a 208km jaunt from Issoire to Saint-Flour) involved a wholly unforgettable episode of car nudges rider -- riders meet immovable objects. Already having seen the likes of Boonen, Brajkovic, Horner, Vinokourov, Wiggins, and Zabriske (among many others) crash out of the 2011 TdF with concussions, broken collarbones, noses, wrists, and even a femur, it is incredibly fortunate that the egregious maneuvers of a French media car didn't cause more serious damage. Dramatic embellishment aside, Juan Antonio Flecha (Esp, Team Sky) and Johnny Hoogerland (Ned, Vacansoleil-DCM) are lucky to be conscious and capable of riding after their run-in with a vehicle from France Television (see video below). Attempting to pass the five riders at tĂȘte de la course, the France Television car nicked Flecha, promptly sending him to the ground. With Flecha sliding across the tarmac in directly in front of him, Johnny Hoogerland was catapulted off his bike and into a barbed wire fence. Luckily, Luis Leon Sanchez (Esp, Rabobank), Thomas Voeckler (Fra, Europcar), and Sandy Casar (Fra, FDJ) were able to avoid the wayward car and crashing comrades. While Flecha and Hoogerland were not able regain contact with the leaders, they did finish the stage. The car has since been excluded from the remainder of the race.

Speaking after Stage 9, a furiuos TdF director Christian Prudhomme explained, 
"The car previously received the order from the race direction not to pass and let the Europcar team manager get through to the breakaway to give Thomas Voeckler the bottle he was asking for. They did not take that order into account... and caused the crash of both riders. This behaviour is intolerable."
Prudhomme concluded by apologising to the teams and riders, saying that the incidents involving the convoy was "two accidents too many." (cyclingnews)
Whether during the heat of competition of amidst the more serene training rides, all crashes are unfortunate and unwelcome. Sometimes due to weather conditions, rider error, and other variables,  crashes are simply part of a cyclist's livelihood. Worst of all, and truly unforgivable, are those caused by no fault of the rider. Hopefully the events during Stage 9 are eye opening (unfortunately, most everyday drivers [i.e. those who most likely need a reminder of their cohabitational responsibilities on the road] will never hear of Johnny Hoogerland).

Below are some photos from Hoogerland's ill-timed, scar-creating, and completely preventable crash as well as his thankful recovery and Rest Day recuperation. Amazingly, Hoogerland is still pedaling along the roads of France and (as of the end of Tuesday's Stage 10) remains the leader of the mountains classification.  

A surprising calm Johnny Hoogerland cautiously extracts himself from a barbed
wire fence following a frightening crash caused by a car from France Television.
photo © Bettini via cyclingnews
“Some are in bad places but I want to try everything (to ride). I actually
feel better on the bike than when I climb the stairs.” (cyclingnews). All
said, Hoogerland ended up with 33 stitches and 4 hours of sleep on Sunday night.
photo © Bettini via cyclingnews
Miraculously and rather swiftly back on his bike (and with a new
pair of shorts), Johnny receives some much needed attention from
a race doctor. Amazing how rider and physician are able to perform
their respective duties while attached to a motorbike moving at 30+mph.
photo © Bettini via cyclingnews
A well bandaged Hoogerland gingerly climbs
onto the stage to accept the polka dot jersey.
photo © Casey B. Gibson via VeloNews
Fortunate (not to mention happy) to be healthy and alive, an
emotional Johnny Hoogerland accepts the polka dot jersey as
the new KOM leader. Wise and somber words from Hoogerland
after the jersey presentation, "We can still be happy we're alive.
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.'" (BBC)
photo © Bettini via cyclingnews

On a conveniently timed first rest day Hoogerland receives
cold compression treatment from an orthopedic therapist.
photo © ANP – KOEN VAN WEEL via VeloNews
No rest for the weary -- A polka dotted, stitched, and gauzed Hoogerland
pedals a few miles with his father Cees (near Aurillac, France) during Rest Day 1.
photo © ANP – KOEN VAN WEEL via VeloNews

Hoogerland's reaction from a cyclingnews post Stage 9 report:
"We can be happy that we're alive. It's horrible," said Hoogerland. "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...I have three cuts that are about seven centimetres long and quite deep too. I'll go to the hospital now and I think I'll need about 30 stitches at least.
"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."

Dang, what a guy! Johnny Hoogerland you are a gentleman and an inspiration. I hope you are able to keep the KOM jersey all the way to Paris.

Drive with awareness. Watch your mirrors (and doors too for that matter). Ride with caution. Watch out for mirrors, doors, and various other vehicular appendages and erratic motions.

And to end on a more positive note (since this is one of the greatest sporting [and cultural] events), we turn to two (one of shear effort and one of history and humor) entries from the PezCycling News PeloPics: