Tour crashes spark safety debate

France: The difficulties of managing both the peloton and the cavalcade of vehicles that cover and maintain them on the same piece of road were thrown into stark relief on Sunday when a Euro Media car swerved suddenly on a narrow stretch of road and took out Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha. This follows last week’s incident involving a photographer’s motorbike knocking rider Nicki Sorensen to the ground. Both vehicles and drivers have been thrown off Le Tour by Race Director, Christian Prudhomme, but watching replays of the accidents it’s not hard to feel relief that the damage to bikes and riders weren’t worse. Hoogerland in particular somersaulted through the air at 60kph into a barbed-wire fence and it’s a miracle he managed to finish the stage (never mind go out and turn his legs over during today’s rest day).

Speaking to Reuters, Prudhomme explained that he asked several cars to give way to that one of the cyclists could get a bottle of water. “The car instead tried to overtake the riders, way too fast, and sent two of them down. We apologise to the riders and to the teams. It’s a scandal. There have now been two incidents involving the media on the roads of the Tour de France, and it’s two accidents too many.”

Given that the butcher’s bill for Sunday also included four riders who crashed heavily during a more typical ‘racing incident’ at the 102km mark, feelings in the peloton are understandably running high and it will be interesting to see what, if any, actions occur as a result.

As Garmin-Cervelo team manager, Jonathan Vaughters, commented: “It’s a brutal, brutal sport.” But, as everyone will agree, it’s not one that the television coverage should be adding to.

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