While overtaking the leading five-man break only 36km from the finish line of stage nine at the Tour de France, a media car from 'Euro Media' hit Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), causing the Spaniard to crash heavily. Breakaway companion Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), riding behind Flecha in the paceline, collided with the fallen Spaniard and was spectacularly launched onto a barbed wire fence along the right-hand side of the road.
Both riders were able to remount and finish the stage, albeit in considerable pain. Hoogerland suffered deep lacerations to his legs and arrived in Saint-Flour sporting bandages applied by a Tour doctor.
Before the accident, Hoogerland had crested four of the first six categorised climbs in first place and scored points on the other two as well. After finishing the stage the Dutchman received the polka dot jersey as new leader of the Tour's mountains classification. Hoogerland, along with Flecha, also received the prize for most combative rider from the race jury.
After receiving his polka dot jersey, Hoogerland became overcome with emotion of what happened to him that day. Race director Jean-François Pescheux apologized in name of organizer Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) and said it was a scandalous thing that happened.
Following the podium ceremony and prior to being transported to the hospital for further medical care, the Dutchman spoke with the media. "I've got a few awful cuts but I think that will get better soon," Hoogerland said. "It's very emotional. You're up the road in the Tour de France, you take the climber's jersey and I wanted to go for the stage win but then you get eliminated in such a stupid way. A lot goes through your mind when that happens.
"We had five and a half minutes and we knew we would make it to the finish. The best was gone because I fought for the mountain points. We were riding at the right side of the road and then that car moves up. He has to swerve and takes Flecha down and then I was thrown into the barbed wire at 60 or 65 km/h. I went head over heels into the barbed wire and I was stuck in there. I looked at my legs and the first thing I thought was riding on. Then Michel [Cornelisse] came and I received new shorts. I thought I had only one cut but in the bus I saw I had two more deep cuts."
The freak accident took away Hoogerland's chances of a stage win and in a demanding race like the Tour de France it's unlikely the Dutchman will be able to recover and defend his polka dot jersey like he normally would.
"It might be a scandal but I don't think they did it in purpose. Everything's well taken care off over here but... you can be mad but I don't think they did it in purpose," Hoogerland repeated.
"I know that I'll be in a lot of pain during the rest day. I hope I can recover. It's a pity but I'm a Zeelander. We're not easy to tear apart. I'm still alive. Wouter Weylandt wasn't that lucky," Hoogerland said, referring to the Belgian rider who died in a crash during the Giro d'Italia almost two months ago.
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