Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tough as Barbed Wire...

I already posted up the video of the horrific crash involving Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland during today's 9th stage of the Tour de France as part of the Thomas Voeckler profile post. Flecha, who was smashed to the pavement after being hit by a television car, and Hoogerland who flew through the air into a barbed wire fence, with enough force to break a wood post, shred his bibs, and suffer deep gouges up and down his legs, both got back up and finished the stage. We read about things like this each year, riders crashing hard, but continuing on, some with extensive abrasions, broken bones, concussions. Seeing Hoogerland's leg as he disentangled himself from the fence, who would have faulted him if he had stepped into a team car or ambulance and called it a day? Courage, dedication, the man has it. Two-hundred fifty pound men smashing into each other fully padded up have nothing on Johnny.

Hoogerland after the crash

and breaking down on the podium after accepting
the Polka Dot Jersey as the Tours best climber

On a related note, incidents like this, involving race vehicles are nothing new. Riders are frequently injured, knocked out of a race, spectators have been killed. This is now the second collision within the first week of the Tour. We all live to watch the videos or live feed, but are some of the driving maneuvers worth the well being of racer and spectator alike. Like many, I suspect we will hear something from riders, teams and race organizers, concerning who gets permits to drive, how many, and where in the race. At what point does the risk become unacceptable.

Update: In case you have not yet read, or heard Jean-Francois Pescheau, the Tour Director of Competition has announced stiffer regulations regarding the race convoy. First, vehicles following the race are to maintain a minimum two minute gap, depending on road conditions (that last part sound like a loophole to me); second, only eight vehicles, four race officials, and four media will be allowed behind any breakaway group; third, media vehicles must have a minimum of two journalists, with press passes; fourth, vehicles can only overtake a break one at a time, and in a safe manner, following directions of race officials. Presumably failure to follow these would result in sanctions against the offending person(s). Both drivers involved in the two incidents this year have been kicked off the race, and may be subject to additional legal action.

On the positive side, Johnny Hoogerland's rest day did involve some riding, a positive sign:

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