Blazin' Saddles

Blazin’ Saddles: A bum deal

Blazin' Saddles

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Fractured femur. Broken collarbone. Collapsed lung. Broken wrist. Cracked shoulder blade. Ripped back. Multiple gashes to the leg and backside requiring 57 stitches.

Sounds like a month's worth of injuries at a local hospital - not a couple of hours' fallout from a bicycle race. Careers ended. Dreams shattered. 12-month plans altered. Surely it's not right that one afternoon should bring about all the above - and more?

What is it with crashes on this year's race? The 2011 Tour might as well be sponsored by Francaise des Jeux this year for not only do the FDJ-sponsored team have riders in every break, the race is also a massive lottery. At this rate we'll only have the Schleck brothers plus Cuddles by the time we arrive in Paris.

If seven withdrawals due to horror smashes in one day wasn't enough, a French TV car took it upon itself to increase the casualty count with perhaps the worst piece of driving since, um, Lewis Hamilton last got into a Formula One car.

Moments after the France Télévisions car rammed Juan Antonio Flecha from behind and propelled the race's new polka dot jersey into a barbed wire fence at 50 km/h, the inevitable conspiracy theories did the rounds online.

With France still stage-less on the ninth day, it was surely a ploy to get rid of 66% of the breakaway which wasn't French, leaving Thomas Voeckler and Sandy Casar a good chance to take glory.

Or what about the claim that it was French TV's way of giving the finger to rival broadcaster Sky, whose name was emblazoned across the shirt of Flecha?

Either way, the cretinous driver - a male driver, Saddles hastens to adds - was kicked off the Tour along with the vehicle in a snap decision very similar to that of last week's expulsion of the photographer's motorbike that brought down Saxo's Nicki Sorensen.


With French TV a man and vehicle down, it's going to become all the more harder to cobble together those so-near-yet-so-far French stage win montages after the rest day - but BS is sure they'll cope.

Media vehicles, eh? That's two in less than a week. What next? With photographers and broadcasters having had their say, perhaps the French print press will in on the act and l'Equipe will send one of their delivery lorries into a peloton entirely devoid of French riders?

You see, little Tommy Voeckler is in yellow now - a tremendous achievement for one of the peloton's true nice guys. But let's be honest - the break was going to be caught before that massive accident involving Alexandre Vinokourov occurred and Headmaster Fabian Cancellara (plus some pupils from Garmin) took it upon themselves to enforce a go-slow.

It was all remarkably similar to the scenes last year in the Ardennes when Sylvain Chavanel rode into the maillot jaune. Now Saddles is a fan of both Chav and Tommy, but even the most ardent Francophile may ably reach the conclusion that, erm (deep breath), the French are perhaps only capable of getting their yellow jerseys when there's a truce called.

Anyway, enough French bating; Saddles defies anyone to watch the post-race interview with Hoogerland and not well up. The rider himself was close to tears on the podium when picking up his polka dot jersey, and the grace with which he spoke to reporters afterwards was astonishing.

The Dutchman refused to blame anyone for the crash, saying he expected an apology from the driver but stressing that nobody "does this sort of thing on purpose". He added, stoically: "It shouldn't happen but we should be happy because we're alive and Wouter Weylandt died."

Hoogerland wasn't the only one visibly affected by the seriousness of the day's incidents. David Millar labelled the earlier Vino crash as "one of the scariest I've seen" while Cadel Evans, with bloodshot eyes, said the scenes "really, really frightened me - after Wouter and what happened at the Giro".

Gaffe of the Day: Arnaud Coyot taking Saddles' culinary tip yesterday too literally and vomiting while riding in the peloton. The Frenchman clearly ordered the shell fish from Aigurande on Saturday...

Plat du Jour: Cantal cheese - and lots of it.

Word of the Day: n. Contadoor - from the expression 'to open the contadoor on someone' meaning 'to pull the carpet from someone's feet when they least expect it'.

Tip of the Day: If you're going to do a hit-and-run then best not in front of the cameras at the world's biggest sporting event.

Uses for... Vladimir Karpets: a hit-man going by a cool name like 'Karpet Cleaner'.

Peloton prattle: Which lead-out man often walks in on his room-mate "bouncing around naked" in the team hotel?

Quote of the Day: "I landed on the fence and I looked at my legs and thought, 'Is this what cycling is about?'" Johnny Hoogerland on his car-assisted horror crash into a barbed wire fence.

Tweet of the Day: "I feel so sorry for Johny. This is a scandal what happen. This cardriver should get the same pain as my friend Flecha..." For once, Saddles kind of understands what Fabian Cancellara is going on about.

Rest day prediction: At least two top ten hopefuls to break bones falling downstairs or slipping by the breakfast buffet. FDJ will go on the attack; Alberto Contador to find a decent local butchers; and Lampre to discover the real Alessandro Petacchi locked up in a cupboard in their bus.

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