France News Daily: Tour de France Recap Week 1

France News Daily: Tour de France Recap Week 1

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Tour de France 2011 Week One Recap: Dodging Raindrops and Crashes

Thomas Samph
BonjourParis France News Daily
PARIS, July 11—Feisty Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) soared into yellow yesterday on Stage 9 of the 2011 Tour de France after battling the climbs and cruising the descents through the Massif Central region of France.

Voeckler, a former champion of France and a well-known breakaway artist, will wear the yellow jersey again, as he did for 10 stages during the 2004 Tour de France. Yesterday he took the Maillot Jaune from team Garmin Cervelo’s Thor Hushovd, who had held onto the jersey since the Stage 2 Team Time Trial.

Thomas Voeckler wins Stage 9  Photo: Reuters

While French fans will be happy to see a Frenchman in yellow, this year’s Tour de France has been marred by horrific crashes and injuries.

Despite the relative calm of the course in the first week—passing through the Vendée region of Western France, then climbing up to Bretagne and swooping down through the Région Centre and intro the Massif Central—terrifying crashes have ripped through the peloton.

Riders on Stage 8 near La Croix St Robert Pass  Photo: AP

Eighteen riders have already abandoned the Tour with broken bones and head trauma. Janez Brajkovic (Radioshack) abandoned on Stage 5 after a fall left him with a terrible gash above his eye. Tom Boonen (Quickstep) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling), two riders always present and combative in the Tour, abandoned on Stage 7 with broken collarbones and other injuries after separate crashes.

Chris Horner (Radioshack) remains in the hospital with a broken nose and a concussion from a crash on Stage 8. Horner was confused and disoriented when team doctors helped him to the bus after the finish of the stage.

In yesterday’s Stage 9, a gruesome crash on a wet and slippery descent between Issoire and Saint-Flour in the Massif Central saw multiple riders tumble down the side of a mountain and out of the race. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was pulled out of the woods and up a hill back to the road where an ambulance could take him away from the race. Vinokourov’s planned retirement at the end of the season came early when he broke his femur near the hip. He is recovering today after overnight surgery in Paris at PitiéSalpêtrière Hospital. David Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo) was pinned against a railing in the same crash and broke his wrist; he will not continue to race. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) went down as well and was taken away in an ambulance with a broken collarbone, a collapsed lung and broken ribs.

Vinokourov helped after Stage 9 crash  Photo:  Stefano Rellandini-Reuters

In the most shocking crash, which happened on Stage 9 with around 30 km to go, a French media car ran into Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky Procycling) causing him to fall and launch Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) soaring into the air through a barbed wire fence. Hoogerland limped to the finish wrapped in bloody bandages with deep gashes in his legs. Watch the crash on this video from IBT. The driver was fired and both riders received the very first Flying Spirit Awards ever awarded.

Alberto Contador of Saxobank at lead   Photo: ReutersNot all crashes resulted in abandons, but they have been just as influential. Alberto Contador (Saxobank) was caught in a crash on the Tour’s first stage and lost over a minute to his rivals. Contador will be forced to attack in the mountains to overcome the deficit. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) skidded along a cement barrier yesterday, finishing the day with some road rash. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) found himself in the grass on the side of the road on an earlier stage of the race, but has forged on and taken the white jersey for Best Young Rider.

In one of the most bizarre crashes of the Tour so far, Nicki Sorenson (Saxobank) was flung to the side of the road when a motorcycle latched onto his bike and dragged it away. The driver of the motorcycle was fired soon after via race radio by the Tour’s director.

With the riders battered from all of the first week’s crashes, Monday’s rest day is welcomed and well deserved. When the race departs again on Tuesday from Aurillac, Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) will be in Yellow, two days before the Tour reaches the Pyrenees. We’ll hope for a safer week of racing to come: after all, you need riders to have a race.

Thomas Samph last covered the Paris Air Show for BonjourParis.

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