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Rest day welcome after Tour crash carnage

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Associated Press
July 11, 2011
— Riders sprawled over the course. One wound up in a ditch, another with a busted leg. Everyone, it seemed, needed ice: A rest day couldn’t come soon enough.

The bleeding and battered Tour de France field endured its worst day yet of crashes, a strange and dangerous ordeal in which even a car took out riders.


When cyclists ease their aching bones today on their day off after nine frenzied and punishing stages, Alexandre Vinokourov will be waking up several hundred miles away in a Paris hospital after surgery on a fractured thigh bone.


Defending champion Alberto Contador’s right knee will be bathed in ice, and Juan Antonio Flecha’s legs will be bruised and scabbed after he was slammed by a car late in Sunday’s stage.


“It is too bad to see riders crashing out of the race like this,” two-time Tour runner-up Andy Schleck said.


Spain’s Luis Leon Sanchez won the ninth stage after a long breakaway in the second day of mountains, and France’s Thomas Voeckler took the yellow jersey from Thor Hushovd. But they left plenty of wreckage behind them.


Cyclists anticipate all number of obstacles during this three-week showcase—wet roads, extreme heat, dehydration, exhaustion, crashes. Getting sent airborne by a Tour car is not one of them.


But that’s what happened to Flecha and to Johnny Hoogerland as they entered the final stretch of the 129-mile route from Issoire to Saint-Flour in the Massif Central. They were in a five-man front group that included Voeckler, Sanchez and France’s Sandy Casar.


If Vinokourov’s crash, which involved about 30 other riders midway through the stage, was not scary enough, the sight of an out-of-control car swerving right into Flecha was a perplexing sight—even in a race more than a century old.


The impact sent Flecha flying sideways into Hoogerland. Hoogerland then soared upward, just scraping a barbed wire fence.


Remarkably, Hoogerland, who landed in a roadside ditch, and Flecha, got back up: speed gone, spirit intact.


Earlier in Sunday’s stage, Hoogerland and his four companions were several minutes ahead of a huge crash that left dozens of riders sprawled over the road.


Vinokourov wound up in a ditch. Vinokourov was to be taken by helicopter to La Pitie Salpetriere hospital in Paris for immediate surgery, his team said.


As other stricken riders peeled themselves off the ground, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Frederik Willems, both Belgian riders on the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, and American David Zabriskie of the Garmin-Cervelo team all had to quit.


Contador fell early Sunday but recovered to finish the stage in 12th place.



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