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Crash driver expelled from Tour de France

Tour de France organisers have expelled from the race the French television car that caused the stage nine crash that left Johnny Hoogerland requiring 33 stitches.

The car, attempting to overtake the five-man stage-winning break, ignored radio orders to allow the team cars through to provide bottles and, after driving along the left-hand grass verge, side-swiped Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha after swerving to miss a tree.

Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler, who went on to finish second behind Rabobank rider Luis Leon Sanchez to take the yellow jersey, managed to stay upright after running into Flecha but King of the Mountains leader Hoogerland was catapulted from his bike into a barbed wire fence.

“They caused the crash of both riders. This behaviour is intolerable,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme.

Both Flecha and Hoogerland bravely managed to ride on, with the duo jointly given the most aggressive rider of the day award, eventually finishing more than 16 minutes behind Sanchez.

“I don’t know where the car came from,” said Hoogerland. “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?'”

The Dutchman’s directeur sportif Michel Cornelisse added: “It was unbelievable, they were going at 60kmh, I just saw him flying into the air. He’s bleeding a lot, he has deep cuts in his legs. He was lying in the barbed wire, completely in it, his shorts were completely off, he was completely naked.”

The first week of the Tour has been marred by a string of crashes which saw Radioshack and Team Sky leaders Janez Brajkovic and Bradley Wiggins abandon on stages five and seven respectively.

And Omega Pharma-Lotto’s general classification contender Jurgen Van Den Broeck, fifth overall last year, and Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov, making his final Tour appearance before retiring, were both forced to quit after hitting the deck following a mass pile-up with just over 100km remaining of stage nine.

“I never expected such a dramatic end on the Tour de France,” said four-time stage winner Vinokourov, who broke his right thigh in the accident.”This is a terrible disappointment to me, I am so sad tonight.”


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