2011 Tour de France – Stage 9 Wrap-up

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Fotoreporter Sirotti

Ouch! Today’s stage resembled a crash highlights reel, with riders experiencing ridiculous injuries due to crashes that are sure to have an impact on both the general contention and day to day racing the remainder of the tour. Here’s a quick rundown of what we saw:

1. A breakaway composed of a close to perfect set of riders in Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Sandy Casar (FdJ), Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) and Niki Terpstra (Quick Step) managed to sneak away very early. Only Voeckler, Sanchez and Casar managed to stay away until the end. Terpstra was dropped, while Flecha and Hoogerland had their share of problems…

2. What’s up with support vehicles in the race this year? Earlier, Saxo Bank’s Nicki Sorenson was hooked by a photographer moto. Today, Flecha and Hoogerland were the victims of one of the most bizarre incidents ever seen in the tour, when a car driven by members of France 2/3 television swerved to avoid a tree, smacked in to Flecha, who in turn crashed in to Hoogerland, who went careening in to a barb wire fence. That they both got back up to finish the stage is a testament to how tough those two are. Assuming they’re still riding, they’ll both be wearing red numbers on Tuesday in reward of their joint reciept of today’s fighting spirit award. Hoogerland will also don the polka dot jersey of the mountains classification.

3. The well formed break, the chaos of the crashes, and the subsequent slow-down imposed by Garmin-Cervélo’s Thor Hushovd led to Thomas Voeckler and his break compatriots putting over 4 minutes in to the peloton, and Voeckler in the yellow jersey. Voeckler has 1:49 over Sanchez, and 2:26 over Evans. Will that be enough time to let him carry the Maillot Jaune through Thursday’s Bastille Day celebrations? He’s a better climber than he gets credit for, so we’re thinking its likely.

4. With today’s loss of Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck to a broken shoulder blade and ribs (!) and Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov to a broken pelvis and femur (!!), the tour has lost 5 valid GC contenders. It’s beginning to seem that GC may be more a war of attrition than anything else. Vino and Van Den Broeck’s crash was a particularly unsettling one that came at the front of the peloton, a place they likely thought themselves safe from crashes. We love a good race, but be careful out there guys! We’d rather you duke it out in the mountains than leave blood all over the French countryside.

5. Did the GC contenders make a mistake by letting Sanchez go in the break today? He was 11th in the Tour de France last year, and 10th in the Vuelta. Barring the off-day in the mountains he usually experiences, could he be a serious contender at this point? Teammate Robert Gesink hasn’t been looking great, and lost a few more seconds today over some of the other favorites – will Rabobank be pondering a leadership change?

6. Anyone still unsure if Gilbert is going for the green jersey win? With Van Den Broecke out, will the team through all of its weight behind him and his quest?

7. Finally, with the loss of Van Den Broeck, Whit has gone on record as rooting for Basso. His Velogames team suggests that Basso will now abandon. We apologize in advance for anyone who selected him for their team.

With tomorrow comes a rest day for the riders, but nothing of the sort for us at Pavé! We’ll have some interesting content for you, so make sure to stop by. Don’t forget to let us know what you thought of today’s stage in comments below!

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10 Responses to 2011 Tour de France – Stage 9 Wrap-up

  1. TomC says:

    Is this tour worse than others for appalling crashes? It seems that the crash toll is just so huge and devestating to so many teams. A lot of riders and commentators are calling for a reduced peloton size and smaller race caravan. Will this help and is there anything else that can be done to protect these riders that give so much and can have it all taken away from them in an instant?

  2. Simon says:

    I've found myself wondering if the number and severity of crashes on descents recently has got anything to do with the current generation of slippery machinery. We all know deep-section wheels properly take effect at higher speeds, and frames are getting the same treatment these days too? I would be interested to find out how much the speeds on descents have gone up. Given too, the proliferation of new, sharp road furniture on the run-ins to many of the finishes perhaps it might be time for the UCI to start looking into ways of limiting the top speeds of the peloton's road bikes. This isn't me trying to be anti-technological or hark back to the good old days – I appreciate it might come across as such, but look at the imagination and creativity that gets displayed in f1 any time there's a rule change. I could also observe that the neutral support vehicle is practically an irrelevance these days thanks to the amount of proprietary stuff on team bikes and the unwillingness of teams to have their rider photographed riding anything other than what he's paid to. Not against proprietary stuff, just fed up with owning six sets of tools – (who last changed from campy to shimano?!)

    Maybe forcing teams to use neutral support could benefit us consumers by leading to greater standardization between manufacturers, the riders by cutting the amount of traffic moving up and down the peloton…?

    • Joe says:

      I think a slogan change is in order. Instead of "Tour de France -the most epic race ever" it should be "Tour de France -last man pedaling"

      To Simon, while the average speeds have increased from the 1903 days, they haven't changed all that much in the last 15 years. Further evidence offered by Greg LeMond's ITT record still standing from 1989.
      http://bikeraceinfo.com/tdf/tdfstats.html

      Not wanting to totally dismiss equipment, I read this article below, which caused some pause. 109-116 psi on wet conditions?!?!? While I'm not a pro, and I don't have a team of professionally trained mechanics setting up my bike. These pressures are a good 20-35 psi higher than I'd ever dare to race in the wet.
      http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/07/tour-de-france/tour-de-france-tech-wet-weather-preparations_181775

      I think the primary reason for all the crashes are nerves, the TDF is so exponentially more important than every other race during the calendar year. It's the race that makes or breaks sponsorship, salaries, team selections… Careers! With so much on the line, and so many riders trying to ride at the front, its no wonder why the crashes happen.

      As for Voeckler hanging on to the Jersey till bastille day, HA! I'll go one better, I think Voeckler is going to be a lot harder to shake than he was in 2004, and he may well hang on to that Jersey until the alps. Vive la France!

      • Simon says:

        Hi Joe,

        Those are interesting stats. I'd still like to find out whether the advances in equipment have had an effect on descending speed in particular though – after all, if cycling's cleaner than it was back in 95 you would, all other things being equal, which obviously they're not – you'd expect to see the average speed going down. I know that's very simplistic and there are lots of factors at work here. Given the relatively low speeds though, that bike helmets are designed to protect heads at (there's an interesting view of the effectiveness of the current EU standard at http://cyclehelmets.org/1081.html), might not a relatively small increase in the peak speeds that cyclists are descending at have a disproportionate increase in risk? (Sorry, speaking like an OSH professional here!) It just seems to have been a very, very bloody last couple of months on descents in particular.

        Cheers,

        Simon

  3. Michael says:

    yes, that crash on the descent was horrible. sharp, decreasing radius turn on a slick downhill. I think the responsibility in part lies with the riders, who are going for broke balls-out and overcooked that corner. such a touchy subject. in the dry that corner would have been fine.

    the real issue for me is the clown driving the car who took out flecha and Hoogerland. I can just see the thoughts running through his head now – “oh shit, race radio tells me to move to allow a team car. oh shit, now they tell me i cannot overtake. oh shit, i am driving the tv sponsors car at the front of the race live and am about to crash it into a tree. what do i do, what do i do? crash live and create a huge problem, or swerve to avoid and hope for the best? oh shit, is that a rider i just hit? don`t look back, don`t look back, don`t look back…..“.

    it`s like Jesper Skibby in Flanders all over again. i don`t say ban the cars and motos outright, but culling the herd somewhat to eliminate useless VIP vehicules being driven by right ponces would be a good start no?

    Lastly, if we wake up tomorrow and ASO and Pesheux have not given Hoogerland and flecha the same time as the 3 remaining break riders they should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. I am shocked it hasn`t been done already. If I were both those gents I would seriousely consider legal remedies. I am not litigious, but frankly that incident could almost have ended up as involuntary manslaughter – thank god it did not.

  4. Petacchi says:

    While the crashes are unfortunate (why so many cars and motos?) finally. L.L .Sanchez is where he belongs. I've been watching this rider for years – awesome climber, awesome tt-ist. Maybe 2nd overall will make him realise his talent and inspire him with confidence and give him a pair of coconut sized cojones! Forget Gesink ….Rabo ….this guy is the one you should be behind…… years ago, he was touted as the next Indurain (big shoes to fill – literally) ….gora te gora Sanchez!

  5. Russ R says:

    I agree w/ Michael's comments- the number of cars and motos is absolutely ridiculous. At times, it looks like there is one motorized vehicle per bike racer!

  6. Petacchi says:

    "….Lastly, if we wake up tomorrow and ASO and Pesheux have not given Hoogerland and flecha the same time as the 3 remaining break riders they should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. I am shocked it hasn`t been done already. If I were both those gents I would seriousely consider legal remedies. I am not litigious, but frankly that incident could almost have ended up as involuntary manslaughter – thank god it did not…." quote Michael.

    +1 – amen to that brother….

  7. Pingback: Europcar: (We) Award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul* | Pavé

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