In the closest voting of any category in the 2011 Cyclingnews Reader Poll, Johnny Hoogerland persevering to finish the Tour de France after being launched onto a barbed-wire fence by a French television car prevailed as the year's biggest moment, garnering 5,292 votes. Trailing by a slender 18 votes, Philippe Gilbert sealing the Ardennes triple with his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory over the Schleck brothers finished as runner-up with 5,274 votes.
On a stage already beset with devastating crashes, the incident which claimed Johnny Hoogerland and breakaway companion Juan Antonio Flecha 36km from the finish of the Tour's ninth stage was stunning in its violence and recklessness. The Dutchman and Spaniard, part of a five-man break also containing Thomas Voeckler, Luis Leon Sanchez and Sandy Casar, were struck down by a car which passed the break on a narrow road, sending Flecha heavily to the pavement and launching Hoogerland onto an adjacent barbed-wire fence. Amazingly, they both re-grouped and finished the stage in Saint-Flour, with Hoogerland requiring extensive bandaging to cover the lacerations on his legs and arms as well as a new pair of bib shorts to replace the one literally ripped from his body
"We can be happy that we're alive. It's horrible," said Hoogerland after the stage. "I did what felt like a few somersaults. I don't know where the car came from. Before I knew it, Flecha was on the ground and there was nothing I could do. I landed on the fence and I looked at my legs and thought, ‘Is this what cycling is about?' I have the polka-dot jersey but I'm going to spend the rest day in a lot of pain."
While Hoogerland surrendered the climber's polka-dot jersey three days later, the Dutchman never faltered in his quest to finish his first Tour de France. Twelve stages later Hoogerland crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées to finish 74th overall in an amazing display of grit, determination and courage.
Already voted best male road rider of 2011, Philippe Gilbert came tantalizingly close to picking up a second honour with his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory. The Belgian's first triumph in his native country's Monument wrapped up a stunning week of racing in April where he became only the second rider to sweep the Ardennes triple, having already won Amstel Gold and La Flèche Wallonne.
"It's the most beautiful week of my life. It's unbelievable what I pulled of this week. I enjoyed all moments and it was fantastic," Gilbert said.
Thomas Voeckler finished third, with 3,931 votes, for his remarkable performance at the Tour de France. The 32-year-old Frenchman captivated the nation when he held the yellow jersey from stage 9 through to stage 19, the final day in the mountains finishing atop Alpe d'Huez. Voeckler would ultimately finish fourth overall, 3:20 behind overall winner Cadel Evans, 50 seconds behind third place finisher Fränk Schleck, and 37 second ahead of fifth place finisher Alberto Contador.
2011 Biggest Moment:
1 Johnny Hoogerland perseveres to finish the Tour de France after being launched onto a barbed-wire fence by a French television car. 5292 (24.5%)
2 Philippe Gilbert seals the Ardennes triple with his Liège-Bastogne-Liège victory over the Schleck brothers. 5274 (24.4%)
3 Thomas Voeckler’s dogged performance at the Tour de France. 3931 (18.2%)
4 Leopard Trek riders and Tyler Farrar crossing the line together to honour Wouter Weylandt at the Giro d'Italia. 2601 (12.0%)
5 Final kilometres of Vuelta a Espana stage 17's mountaintop finish on Peña Cabarga: Chris Froome vs. Juan José Cobo. 1733 (8.0%)
6 Jack Bobridge breaks Chris Boardman’s 4000m individual pursuit world record. 869 (4.0%)
7 Danny Hart's world championship-winning downhill run in pouring rain in Champery, Switzerland. 710 (3.3%)
8 Fabian Cancellara's dominating performance in his E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke victory. 555 (2.6%)
9 Matt Goss’s sprint win in Milan-San Remo. 473 (2.2%)
10 Nick Nuyens triumphs at the Tour of Flanders. 196 (0.9%)