Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), left, earned the yellow jersey of the Tour
de France on Sunday after surviving in a long breakaway that itself was
not immune from a series of crashes that injured cyclists, causing at
least five to abandon the race.
The Stage 9 victory went to Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), another member of the 3-man breakaway. You might remember Voeckler from 2004 when he hung onto the yellow jersey for 10 days.
That break comprised 5 cyclists — Voeckler, Sanchez, Sandy Casar (FDJ), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoliel) — when the most bizarre crash of the race occurred.
On an apparently safe section of country pavement, a media car sideswiped Flecha as it swerved to avoid a tree next to the road. Flecha went down and Hoogerland somersaulted over his bike and landed in a barbed wire fence.
Both finished the race about 16 minutes after the winners, with Hoogerland's legs bleeding from being ripped by the fence. Hoogerland might have been motivated to ride through the pain as he'd earned enough points to wear the King of the Mountains jersey after the race.
Organizers of the Tour de France threw the France Television 2/3 car and its driver out of the race. Tour director Christian Prudhomme said: “They caused the crash of both riders. This behaviour is intolerable.”
The breakaway got away on the first of seven climbs on the 208km (129 miles) Stage 9 from Issoire to Saint Flour. After an early crash claimed Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel Euskadi), who abandoned after breaking his collarbone, the Garmin-Cervelo team had gone to the front of the peloton to reel in the breakaway.
Crash du jour
That's when some cyclists lost control on a descending sharp turn, nearly bringing the peloton to a stop.
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), left, and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega), leaders of their respective teams, both crashed off the road and into some woods. Both were considered contenders for the yellow jersey.
Vinokourov had put in a hard attack on the final climb Saturday and had risen to 11th place overall, 32 seconds behind the leader. Van den Broeck was just behind him in 12th place, 39 seconds.
At 37, Vino had said this would be his last Tour de France. He suffered a possible broken pelvis or femur.
Two other cyclists fell victim to that crash.
American cyclist David Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo) left the race with a broken wrist. The one-time yellow jersey wearer is a time trial specialist. During this year's tour, he was often seen at the front of the peloton as Garmin controlled the race for its own overall leader Thor Hushovd. [Team manager Jonathan Vaughters later said that Zabriskie wants to get better for the upcoming Colorado stage race.]
Frederik Willems of Omega also left the race with a broken collarbone.
RadioShack's Andreas Kloden, the highest placed cyclist on that team after Chris Horner abandoned and Levi Leipheimer lost several minutes due to previous crashes, also went down in that wreck but didn't abandon. He was later X-rayed with severely bruised back.
Off the pace
The peloton called a truce to allow everyone to get back in the race who could ride. That allowed the breakaway to regain the time they had lost to the chasing peloton. By the time the depleted Garmin-Cervelo team had reorganized for a chase to preserve the yellow jersey for Hushovd, it was too late to catch the remaining three in the break.
After the Garmin cyclists dropped off the pace, BMC picked up the pace so No. 2 Cadel Evans wouldn't lose too much time from his second-place position overall.
Meanwhile, defending champion Alberto Contador fell again Sunday on a level section but was able to get right back on the bike. With the departure of Vinokourov and Van den Broeck, Contador rose to 16th overall.
Also, US cyclist Horner, who abandoned after Friday's crash, has been been released from the hospital and was last seen dining on McDonald's food.
Top 10 overall
1. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) — 1:49 behind
3. Cadel Evans (BMC) — 2:26
4. Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek) — 2:29
5. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) — 2:37
6. Tony Martin (HTC Highroad) — 2:38
7. Peter Velits (HTC Highroad) — 2:38
8. Andreas Kloden (RadioShack) — 2:43
9. Phillippe Gilbert (Omega) — 2:55
10. Jakob Fuglesang (Leopard-Trek) — 3:08