Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tour legends and legends of the tour; stage 10 - Abandonments

Amets Txurruka (Spa) (withdrawal Stage 9, fractured collarbone)
Ivan Murillo Velasco (Spa) (non-starter Stage 6, fractured collarbone)
Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) (withdrawal Stage 9, Fractured 3 ribs, Fx shoulder blade, collapsed lung)
Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) (withdrawal Stage 4, fractured collarbone)
Frederik Willems (Bel) (withdrawal Stage 9, fractured collarbone)
Juan Manuel Gárate Cepa (Spa) (non-starter Stage 9, shoulder pain, groin pain from Stage 5 crash)
David Zabriskie (USA) [American National Champion Time Trial] (withdrawal Stage 9, fractured wrist)
Christopher Horner (USA) (non-starter Stage 8, concussion, fractured nose)
Janez Brajkovic (Slo) (withdrawal Stage 5, concussion, fractured collarbone)
Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) (non-starter Stage 10, fever)
Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) (withdrawal Stage 9, fractured femur, possible Fx hip)
Tom Boonen (Bel) (withdrawal Stage 7, concussion)
Bradley Wiggins (GBr) [British National Champion Road and Time Trial] (withdrawal Stage 7, fractured collarbone)
Rémi Pauriol (Fra) (withdrawal Stage 7, fractured collarbone)
Christophe Kern (Fra) [French National Champion Time Trial] (withdrawal Stage 5, knee tendinitis)
Vasili Kiryienka (Blr) (outside time limit Stage 6)
Beñat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) (withdrawal Stage 8, fractured arm)
Pavel Brutt (Rus) (withdrawal Stage 9, crash)
Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) (non-starter Stage 10, poistive A sample doping from Stage 5 test)
Wout Poels (Ned) (withdrawal Stage 9, crash)
John Gadret (Fra)

These are the twenty-two cyclists who have so far abandoned the 2011 Tour de France. Some readers of this blog might have thought I too have abandoned; but no, I've just had an extended rest day.

But back to the riders. Compare this to last year, when a total of twenty-eight riders abandoned over the whole three weeks, and this year is looking rather grim. Granted, the first week of racing is often very nervous but there is no doubt that the number of crashes and mishaps is unusually high.

And what seems nothing but really bad luck, the teams of Omega-Pharma Lotto, Radioshack, Astana, Quickstep, Team Sky, and Katusha have all lost their leader. That's six teams out of twenty-two who have had to change their tactics mid-race.

Most of the withdrawals have been due to crashes. Crashes have always been a part of racing and always will be but there are some that simply shouldn't happen. The most obvious of these is this one;

The driver of this France Television car ignored orders not to pass and then swerved to avoid hitting a tree. Remarkably, the two cyclists involved, Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland, were able to remount their bikes and continue. Hoogerland needed thirty-three stitches form his run-in with the barbed-wire fence while Flecha has every extremity of his body bandaged. Needless to say, the driver is out of the Tour.

But of course, this is not the first time that outside forces have affected the race (although it might be the most shocking and dramatic).

In 2003 Lance Armstrong got tangled up with a spectator's bag. Incidentally, this took place on the Luz-Ardiden climb, which the riders will tackle in today's stage for the first time since 2003.

Then there was Sandy Casar who hit a dog during the 2007 Tour. Nonetheless, he went on to win the stage (don't worry, the dog was OK too).

And then there's this horse who felt like taking part in the race. Not the Tour, but worth inclusion.

There are countless examples of things bringing cyclists down. It's a scary part of the sport but it's also part of its beauty; there aren't many sports where fans can literally touch their heroes as they ply their trade.

As I wrote in The Cycling Arena: Beauty and Tragedy (is it acceptable to quote yourself?),

The cycling arena knows no numbered seats, or any seats for that matter, save for the ground or the camping chair you bring along with you. There are no turnstiles or hotdog vendors. If it rains, you get wet. If you want to touch your heroes, there are no security guards or barriers to stop you. If you stand close enough, you will be sprayed with their sweat.
You don't pay to see cycling. There is no one to pay. No one owns the roads any more than you. In this way, cycling is more a part of its fans, and fans more a part of cycling, than any other sport.
And that's one of the things I love about cycling, despite the fact that it sometimes causes terrible accidents.

By the way, if you haven't had a chance to watch the Tour much this year, today's stage would be a good place to start. With the first foray into the mountains, there are sure to be fireworks. It'll be worth staying up late for, even though it's a school night...

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