Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) has insisted that he is enjoying his Tour de France experience in spite of the injuries he sustained when a crash involving a French television car forced him into a barbed wire fence on stage 9.
The Dutchman continued in the race in spite of requiring 32 stitches to wounds on his legs, and successfully defended his lead in the king of the mountains classification until the foot of the Pyrenees. Hoogerland ultimately surrendered the polka dot jersey on the road to Luz-Ardiden on Thursday, but after the stage he was keen to downplay his travails of the past week.
"The Tour de France has been a dream of mine for ten years," Hoogerland pointed out. "I have to keep on smiling. I'm still in the race, so why would I cry?"
Indeed, Hoogerland put up fierce if futile resistance in his bid to retain the lead in the mountains classification, by attacking on the day's opening climb, the first category Hourquette d'Ancizan. That effervescence would quickly fizzle out, and Hoogerland came home almost 25 minutes down in 93rd, losing his mountains jersey to Samuel Sanchez (Euksaltel-Euskadi).
Hoogerland rolled across the line just as the crowds were dispersing following the end of the day's the podium ceremonies, and before speaking to a small gaggle of reporters beyond the finish, he peeled off his polka dot jersey and wrapped himself in a standard team jacket. The 28-year-old explained that while his injuries themselves were no longer affecting his performances, his body had yet to recover fully from his exertions.
"No, the wounds weren't the problem, I felt good today," Hoogerland said matter-of-factly. "I'm just missing a little power now. I think the body is recovering and it needs to recover. I need to recover to be a little better."
Hoogerland described his spell in the king of the mountains jersey as a "dream," but said that the onus was on him to recover the form that saw him on the offensive so often in the Tour's opening week.
"In a few days I hope to be the same as I was in the first week, but it's difficult. I'm missing some power now," Hoogerland said finally, before rolling off down the climb to search for his team bus.
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