Police probe horror crash as Sky ponder legal action
Published 12/07/2011 | 05:00
French police are investigating how a television car crashed into a group of riders during Sunday's ninth stage of the Tour de France, an incident being taken so seriously by Britain's Team Sky they are considering legal action.
Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha was one of two riders sent flying by the car, which belonged to French broadcaster France 2. The other, Johnny Hoogerland, ended up wrapped in barbed wire by the side of the road.
Incredibly, both riders finished the race, with the latter stepping up to the podium to receive the best climber's polkadot jersey before going to hospital, where it took 33 stitches to close the deep gashes in his leg.
The incident came at the end of an especially brutal week, even by Tour standards, with Bradley Wiggins among 16 riders forced out of the race with broken bones.
French police were at the Team Sky hotel last night to interview Flecha. Team principal Dave Brailsford refused to rule out a criminal prosecution and called on organisers to put in place safety measures which ensure such an incident can never happen again.
Flecha is expected to start today's stage after a visit to hospital confirmed there had been no fracture to the elbow. Today's 158km stage, full of short, sharp hills, would have been tailor-made for Flecha but now survival will be the priority.
While Flecha was at hospital yesterday, Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme rang him to apologise personally before asking after his health and his version of events.
This was the second vehicle-related accident on this year's Tour, both of which could have proved fatal, and Prudhomme is well aware that the peloton are demanding stricter control of race vehicles.
Meanwhile, Jurgen van den Broeck will remain in intensive care for at least another two days after receiving multiple injuries during Sunday's worst 'regular' racing crash, which also saw Alexandere Vinokourov break his femur and David Zabriskie break a wrist. The Omega Pharma-Lotto team leader Van den Broeck fractured three ribs, his shoulder blade and also suffered a collapsed lung.
Elsewhere, Russian Alexandr Kolobnev became the first cyclist at this year's Tour to fail a doping test, the International Cycling Union said yesterday. It is the first positive case at this year's race, and happened on Wednesday's fifth stage from Carhaix to Cap Frehel. (© Daily Telegraph, London)