The freak accident that took out Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) caused a stir in the cycling caravan of the Tour de France. Hilaire Van der Schueren is an experienced director sportif on the Vacansoleil-DCM team. It's been a few years since he has featured in the Tour de France but what he endured during stage 9 was something he, like many others, had never witnessed. Van der Schueren felt sorry for his rider, but right after the crash he was already considering the long-term consequences in his analysis of what happened.
"The Tour has become even bigger and more hectic," he said. "What happened was the mistake of one person who passed the tiny group of five riders in a reckless way in a place where that should not have happened. Nobody can do anything about it: not the team, not Johnny, not the organization... it all has nothing to do with it. One person took a risk that he should not have taken.
"It's a real shame for Johnny because he might even taken the stage as there was a climb near the finish. He was one of the best in the group," Van der Schueren considered. Eventually the stage was won by Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) who easily out-sprinted his French breakaway companions Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Sandy Casar (FDJ).
When asked whether he had seen television footage of the accident, Van der Schueren said that he had seen enough.
"I haven't seen the footage and actually I don't want to see it," he admitted. "I'm disappointed, I'm mad, I don't know how to describe it. These accidents can happen and there's no way we can turn back the clock. We could have won the stage, done a good job in the team classification and a good general classification for Johnny. We all lost it. We have to go on though. The [lacerations from the] barbed wire is painful. It's also dangerous for infections and that's what I'm thinking about the most because the Tour goes on for two more weeks. We have to watch out for that. We kept him on the bike also because it would be a shame to pull out of the race while knowing you have the polka dot jersey. In two days he might be able to defend his jersey. "
An emotional Van der Schueren was left questioning the next steps.
"It's a scandal to see what has happened. That person will of course be excluded from the race but what does that do for us? What does it do for Johnny?"
Tour organizer ASO indeed excluded the driver who apparently passed the rider without permission from the race jury. ASO warned that future infringements to the rules would immediately lead to an exclusion of the Tour caravan.
"We're looking into taking juridical action to get some compensation from the driver. It doesn't do much for us but it might serve as an example. That's what [race organizer Christian] Prudhomme suggested. He was raging," Van der Schueren said.
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