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Tour de Crash
July 12, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

When American Tyler Farrar symbolically claimed America's first stage win on the 4th of July, he dedicated his achievement to the memory of his best friend, Wouter Weylandt, whose tragic crash just two months ago left many questioning whether modern cycling had become too dangerous for today's professional riders (previously). They may have found their answer in Sunday's Stage 9 of what is now being dubbed by many the "Tour de Crash".

Two crashes on the very first stage of the race cost controversial Tour de France winner Alberto Contador precious minutes as he was held up by the riders involved, opening a window of opportunity for ambitious contenders in pursuit of the coveted maillot jaune.

Farrar's Garmin-Cervelo teammate, Thor Hushovd, manages to take the yellow for a few days, but challengers are hot on his heels as Stage 9 begins.

Aggressive riding as cyclists jostle to take the lead from Hushovd brings in another spill for the unlucky Contador. Then a catastrophic sprawl of fallen riders results in race-ending injuries for several riders, including veteran Kazakh cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov, who withdraws from what was to be his final Tour after hitting a tree and breaking his femur.

The remaining cyclists are visibly shaken by the crash-- but it took this "disgraceful" incident involving a French TV car (and 33 stitches for Johnny Hoogerland) to stun even the race announcers.

The car was banned from the Tour. Legal action is being considered. And that was all just Stage 9.

The Tour de France runs through Sunday, July 24th, with 21 stages in all.

After yesterday's rest day, Stage 10 continues on today to Carmaux (Stage 10 SPOILERS).
posted by misha (81 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great showing by Hoogerland to finish the race and make it to the podium for the kotm jersey after all that,
posted by ghharr at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]



Damn.


That driver should be beaten, mauled, and then shot and fed to a honey badger. He pushed those cyclists right into the barbed wire alongside the road.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:01 AM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not having ever paid much attention to cycling or the Tour de France, I have to say I'm surprised by the number of cars allowed on the course. It looks as difficult to navigate a bike race as it does a city street.
posted by Hoopo at 11:03 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


At this rate, we're going to award the Malloit Sang.

97 and 99 were bloody tours as well, but this year is just insane. It's getting to the point where I don't want to see the race reports.

The tour started with 198 riders, 20 are out, with one due to a failed test (Kolobnev.) I don't understand that one -- it seems that the last thing a rider would want to take is a diuretic, but there it is. Another, Popovych, officially retired because of illness, but he was hurt badly in a Stage 5 crash.

I've heard a lot of theories, from too many riders (probably yes), to a too narrow course (probably yes as well) to too many specialists that can't handle a bike very well (maybe, but....)

In other news, Voeckler is getting a lot of grief for unabashedly (and without any contrition) breaking one of the Tour's unwritten rules, which is that you don't attack if a competitor is taken out by a crash that wasn't their fault.
posted by eriko at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2011


After the driver knocks several cyclists down, the guy in the green jersey that narrowly escaped just...keeps going. If cyclists are concerned about a safer race, then stop and get off the bike when there is an accident, and don't get back on until it's resolved. Yes, this would hold everyone up and cause chaos. That's the point.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:19 AM on July 12, 2011


That driver should be beaten, mauled, and then shot and fed to a honey badger. He pushed those cyclists right into the barbed wire alongside the road.

I've crashed a few times, both my fault and taken my fair share of road rash, but there are a lot of barbed wire fences in my area and I shudder as I go whizzing by them just wondering what would happen if.
posted by jquinby at 11:22 AM on July 12, 2011


Yeah, Voeckler's move was pretty dick. Not everyone slows down to let their fellows catch back up so they can start a fair race again, but everyone who is worth a damn does.
posted by introp at 11:22 AM on July 12, 2011


Hoogerland:
“I think the people in the car will have a very big guilty feeling and they will surely apologize to me and Flecha,” he said.

“We can still be happy that we’re alive. Nobody can be blamed for this. It’s a horrible accident and I was in it. But I said to Flecha, ‘We’re still alive and Wouter Weylandt died in a crash.’”
Damn. Johnny Hoogerland is a better person than I am.

Hoogerland could just have as easily thrown a fit and blamed the driver (who, let's be honest, is certainly at fault), and not a soul would have blamed him. Instead, he walked away from the situation with a superhuman level of grace and composure. That's how to be a role model.

I'd like to consider myself an empathetic person, but I cannot even imagine being able to forgive a person for (likely intentionally) throwing me into a barbed wire fence at high speed only a few hours after the fact.
posted by schmod at 11:25 AM on July 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm sharing this probably 8th-hand and don't know who wrote it but for cycling mefites:

For everyone out there that rides in lanes too narrow to share (I.e., pretty much everyone who rides), take careful note of the choice the driver of the car made today. A driver with experience around riders, respect for cycling, etc., still instinctively jerked into the cyclists when faced with a choice between crashing his car and heading into cyclists.

How does this apply to you? It’s important to control your lane on blind corners or hill rises. Get into the middle of the lane so the car isn’t tempted to squeeze around you while it’s still uncertain as to what’s coming in the other direction. They can wait – it’ll only be a few seconds. So remember – when you can’t safely share the lane – control it.

posted by ghharr at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2011 [35 favorites]


it seems that the last thing a rider would want to take is a diuretic, but there it is.

Or maybe the wrong bribes were paid to the wrong testing firm and there it is.
posted by telstar at 11:28 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Johnny Hoogerland is a tough bastard. Crashes aside though, it is interesting to see more "Classics"-style riders do well in this tour. Hushovd, Gilbert, Voeckler and now Hoogerland have all exceeded expectations so far. To be fair, we haven't really got to the mountains yet, but I'm enjoying watching the hilly stages.

Of course, at this rate, they're going to have to modify some of the upcoming stages:

11. Blaye-les-Mines to Hôtel Dieu Saint-Jacques

13. Pau to Centre Hospitalier Général

15. Limoux to Hôtel du Parc Euromédecine
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:28 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Going back two steps in the cause-and-effect chain:

1) Yes, the driver intentionally swerved into the riders.
2) The driver swerved to miss a tree - if they'd hit the tree, they would have still hit the riders.
3) What the hell were they doing driving so fast on the shoulder of such a narrow road?

I see this as having some little lessons about daily life on city streets, namely: Attitudes and intentions don't matter. No matter how well-intentioned a person driving a car, if the street infrastructure is poor, then unprotected road users are going to get hurt.

So the answer isn't to hate on them, it's to complete the roads!

Also, banning one car is probably not going to fix this safety problem.
posted by anthill at 11:31 AM on July 12, 2011


Well, not everyone's convinced that this race is more dangerous; the number of riders abandoned after Stage 9 is only slightly above the average of the last 14 years: 9.09% vs 8.13%.

For those of you complaining about Voeckler not waiting: really? He looked back and saw Flecha in a heap and Hoogerland strung up on the fence and made the command decision to continue. From the look of it, neither of those guys was going to be getting up soon, nor did they. It was a breakaway, not the pack. Garmin-Slipstream neutralizing the peloton after the Vinokourov-VDB crash was a very different situation and it, too—like Voeckler et al continuing—was the right move.
posted by The Michael The at 11:32 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


1) Yes, the driver intentionally swerved into the riders.
2) The driver swerved to miss a tree - if they'd hit the tree, they would have still hit the riders.
3) What the hell were they doing driving so fast on the shoulder of such a narrow road?


The reports are that the car was specifically ordered not to pass and disobeyed that order.
posted by The Michael The at 11:33 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


anigbrowl: "After the driver knocks several cyclists down, the guy in the green jersey that narrowly escaped just...keeps going. If cyclists are concerned about a safer race, then stop and get off the bike when there is an accident, and don't get back on until it's resolved. Yes, this would hold everyone up and cause chaos. That's the point."

Hm. Bicycles are very maneuverable, and don't have great stopping distances. The tour route is literally lined with coaches and medical personnel. If there's a crash, the best thing that you can do is to get the fuck out of the way. Moving forward seems to be the best option. The fact that you get to continue your own race is icing on the cake.

Also, this thing happened in a split second, and I'd have to imagine that it takes a few more seconds for a rider to snap out of the "race" mentality (which is more a reflection of the fact that they're burning more calories an hour than you do in a day, than anything about their personality).

No, the best thing to do is to keep going.
posted by schmod at 11:34 AM on July 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hoogerland could just have as easily thrown a fit and blamed the driver (who, let's be honest, is certainly at fault)

Absolutely, however the driver of the car was in a difficult situation in that he had to swerve out of the way of a tree. A sudden stop might also have been an issue given the proximity of bikes, motorcycles, and other cars behind him. I have to wonder about the wisdom of allowing cars at all in stages that are on such narrow streets. Could they not have a few stationary cameras or bicycle-mounted cameras in certain spots instead? Helicopter shots even?
posted by Hoopo at 11:35 AM on July 12, 2011


You take a diuretic to wash out the evidence of something you've taken before it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:36 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


it seems that the last thing a rider would want to take is a diuretic, but there it is.


A diuretic can be used to disguise other doping agents, as well as evidence of blood transfusions.

With regard to criticisms of Voeckler- he did slow after the earlier, larger crash. When Hoogerland and Flecha were taken out by the TV car, Voeckler wasn't technically riding against them. They were working together, riding against the peloton. If Voeckler and the other two riders would have stopped, they all would have lost their advantage. Typically, you don't attack the race leader or the yellow jersey following a mechanical or crash, but in this case, all five were leading the race.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:36 AM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't know if this is subjective or not - it probably is - but in the years I've been watching it seems like the peleton has been getting faster and faster. I checked out the winners' average speeds and these seem to have stayed pretty constant.
posted by carter at 11:37 AM on July 12, 2011


Voeckler DID slow the breakaway down a little later, to try and give Hoogerland and Flecha time to catch back up to them (because he could use their help himself, but still) and only abandoned that when it became apparent they weren't going to be able to catch up in time.
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:39 AM on July 12, 2011


schmod writes "(which is more a reflection of the fact that they're burning more calories an hour than you do in a day"

Are these guys really burning a couple thousand calories an hour?
posted by Mitheral at 11:40 AM on July 12, 2011


Also, the TV car in question was already in violation of race instructions by trying to get ahead of the break, and blocking the Vacansoleil car from getting up to their rider. They never should have been in a position where they needed to avoid that tree.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:41 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


One cyclist seems unfazed.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:45 AM on July 12, 2011


Honey Badger?

They should be fed to Bernard Hinault?

'cause Bernard Hinault don't give a shit.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:47 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not convinced the race has had more crashes than usual. The Tour peloton is always nervous. There is so much more at stake than there is in other races, and riders are always encouraged to ride at the front of the bunch (ironically, to avoid crashes). When ~200 riders are constantly jostling for position, there is always going to be the risk of crashes.

The only difference this year is that many of the crashes have involved big players. Contador, Wiggins, Vino, Van den Broeck, Leipheimer et al. If Christian Knees or Pablo Urtasan had crashed and broken bones, would we be having this conversation?
posted by afx237vi at 11:47 AM on July 12, 2011


You take a diuretic to wash out the evidence of something you've taken before it.

Obvious, now that I've seen it. Thanks!

They never should have been in a position where they needed to avoid that tree.

Yes. A fundamental rule of accidents is that it is almost never the case that *one* mistake caused the accident. There's almost always a long chain of actions that leads to an accident.

Yes, once the van was there, he was either hitting a tree, a rider, or both. The mistake was made long before, because the driver put himself into the place where the only choice was accident, contrary to both written policy for media vehicles *and* a direct order from race control.*

If he follows policy, he doesn't cause the accident. Failing that, if he listened to the race director, he would have not been in the place to cause the accident. Failing that, if he'd waited for a wide patch of road to pass safely, he would not have hit the rider.

By the time he had to dodge the tree, he had already fucked up multiple times. The unfortunate thing was that it was the riders who really paid the price for that fuckup.


* I heard somewhere that he wasn't listening to the correct radio channel, which meant he ignored that instruction as well, but I haven't seen that confirmed.
posted by eriko at 11:54 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've only been watching the Tour for the past 3 years or so, but I feel like I'm only just beginning to get a grasp on the complex rules, both formal and informal, that govern the peloton. I watched the crash happen and watched Voeckler after the crash, and I really don't see how what he did was wrong in the context of the race. The whole unwritten rule of not attacking when there's a crash or a mechanical (good job there, Contador) seems to be primarily for the general classification leaders. I mean, in this instance Voeckler took the yellow jersey, but I don't think anyone's under the impression that he'll be keeping it very far into the Pyrenees. The general classification is only one of the many, many races that is taking place on the road, and the rules that govern it are different than those for the breakaway (which functions more as a single-day race). But the overlap and mixing of all those races, along with the strategy and teamwork and forged/broken alliances are what make the Tour so absolutely fascinating to watch.

I wish we could watch it without these insane accidents, but there is always going to be a large amount of danger inherent in riding a 14.9lbs piece of metal, carbon, and rubber at upwards of 60 mph. I am in absolute awe of these athletes.
posted by Osrinith at 12:03 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've looked at the video repeatedly and I don't see any excuse for the driver -- the only way he'd have hit the tree would be if he'd kept his outside tires off the pavement. I see the driver making a completely typical beginner mistake of overcorrecting after running off the edge of the pavement and so going too far toward the center of the pavement.

Doing it right: correcting appropriately and just getting the tire back onto the edge of the pavement and holding the line there.

I had to practice this exact move in Driver's Ed over and over at different speeds to be able to get it right. It becomes instinctive after a few hundred iterations.

The exact situation -- running off the edge of the pavement, followed by overcorrection crossing the centerline -- causes lots of head-on collisions on country roads. I learned to drive in the country and this was something to watch out for all the time.

Watch the video a few more times. You can clearly see where the driver gets the car back onto the pavement, and could have held it there and gone past that tree safely, but instead goes far into the middle of the road hitting the cyclist.

Idiot driver. Inexcusable lack of competence.
posted by hank at 12:06 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay, okay, okay, everyone hold their horses.

This Tour de France seems crashier than others, but I'll wager that's because there have been some extremely dramatic crashes that have affected Big Names and General Classification hopefuls. Janez Brajkovic, Brad Wiggins, Alexander Vinokourov, and Chris Horner are all out with injuries. Contador and Gesink have both crashed repeatedly. The Flecha/Hoogerland/FranceTV incident... all that stuff raises the profile, especially when everybody has Weylandt's death on their minds.

However, the 2011 Tour de France's rate of attrition after 9 stages is only a percentage point higher than the 8% average rate of attrition over the past 15 years, as pointed out by Cyclocosm. Yes, there's some fudgy data (past years saw more numerous expulsions for doping), but I agree that it's a ballpark figure.

I think that this Tour's crashy reputation is because of seeing dramatic videos of Flecha/Hoogerland, Horner's concussion; because of a few big notable injuries; because of the attrition to GC riders rather than roleurs and domestiques; and because Weylandt is on everyone's mind.

NOT because it's more dangerous than prior editions.
posted by entropone at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2011


Also, a picture of Hoogerland's backside. Not safe for work if your workplace doesn't like you looking at pictures of bloody butts.
posted by entropone at 12:16 PM on July 12, 2011


With regard to criticisms of Voeckler- he did slow after the earlier, larger crash. When Hoogerland and Flecha were taken out by the TV car, Voeckler wasn't technically riding against them. They were working together, riding against the peloton.

I don't give a fuck about the race. I give a fuck about getting off the bicycle and going over to assist the people you were riding alongside a moment before, and demonstrating that helping out an injured person is more important than interrupting a competitive event. The cars are taking up more space on the road than the cyclists, the cyclists complain that their cycle races have become dangerous, but nothing is going to change until they themselves actually put safety first and racing second.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:18 PM on July 12, 2011


Not mentioned in the post was Chris Horner's crash in Stage 7. He rode the last 35k of the stage with a concussion and a broken nose, and came across the line not knowing where he was and with no memory of the crash. He abandoned the next day.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 12:21 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen the Tour in quite a while, and I'm shocked that television coverage of the event has grown so invasive and dangerous. Seems like they should *at least* limit coverage to motorcycle/scooter/moped vehicles.
posted by davejay at 12:21 PM on July 12, 2011


I give a fuck about getting off the bicycle and going over to assist the people you were riding alongside a moment before, and demonstrating that helping out an injured person is more important than interrupting a competitive event. The cars are taking up more space on the road than the cyclists, the cyclists complain that their cycle races have become dangerous, but nothing is going to change until they themselves actually put safety first and racing second.

I don't see how stopping, getting off your bike and trying to help the fallen cyclists (when there are NUMEROUS coaches following who are perfectly capable of helping them, btw, and would probably be more useful at helping them than you) is actually putting safety first. You're not increasing safety by stopping to help a fallen comrade. Sure, you're increasing your karma points, but it's not really improving safety any.
posted by antifuse at 12:22 PM on July 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Off-of-bicycle experience.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:25 PM on July 12, 2011


anigbrowl: I don't give a fuck about the race. I give a fuck about getting off the bicycle and going over to assist the people you were riding alongside a moment before, and demonstrating that helping out an injured person is more important than interrupting a competitive event.

Sorry, but that is ridiculous. The Tour de France and all other bike races have ambulances and medical cars following the race. Voeckler is a pro cyclist, not a paramedic, what is he supposed to do that a medic cannot?

There are times and places for making protests about race traffic, and seconds after an accident is not that time. Voeckler would also be at risk of causing another serious accident by turning around and riding back down the course against the oncoming traffic.

Voeckler did nothing wrong after the crash and I'm amazed people are saying otherwise.
posted by afx237vi at 12:25 PM on July 12, 2011 [20 favorites]


Both the organisers and the French authorities have been curiously coy about the occupants of the car (it's also interesting to note that the car has been banned, not the people inside: bad car, naughty car!). The organisers have said it was a "technical car", but stills from the scene show a (female?) passenger not even bothering to look back to the carnage. The Spanish press has reported rumours that the car was carrying a famous French TV presenter, and the cyclists had already complained about VIP cars zipping past them.
As for Hoogerland, Dutch reports say that he wasn't hurt just in the legs and backside, but also in an, erm, even more sensitive spot. Ouch.
posted by Skeptic at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2011


Hoogerland:
“I think the people in the car will have a very big guilty feeling and they will surely apologize to me and Flecha,” he said.


Except, they haven't, yet.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2011


The whole car crash happened when a team car told French TV to get out of the way.

As for Voeckler not stopping, he's not a medic, not a coach, not a mechanic, and has no business stopping, getting in the way, or abandoning the race because someone else crashed. He's under an obligation to finish within a time limit and had no guarantees he wouldn't face some other delay. So he couldn't possibly help and the thing to do is keep going. Sorry if that seems unsportsmanlike to some.

This Tour hasn't had more accidents than usual, but it has had more severe accidents than usual. The first week of the Tour is always crashy. There will be fewer crashes in the mountain stages. But more crazy Basques!
posted by FunkyStar at 12:37 PM on July 12, 2011


Not mentioned in the post was Chris Horner's crash in Stage 7. He rode the last 35k of the stage with a concussion and a broken nose, and came across the line not knowing where he was and with no memory of the crash.

That's one of the most disturbing videos I've ever seen. Horner rolls in with no idea where he is or what is going on, obviously suffering from a serious head injury. In the interview his coach blithely says he's been that way since the crash but the assholes from the Radio Shack car let him get back on the bike at the crash site and ride another 35K. Have these people never heard of a Cerebral Hemorrhage? How about just a simple concussion (which he obviously had)? Do they want a dead rider in a Radio Shack jersey on national TV? Those would be my questions. I wonder if they have answers.
posted by The Bellman at 12:39 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I didn't see it mentioned above, but in an earlier stage this year Nicki Sørensen was taken out by one of the camera motorcycles and dragged along the side of the road. That crew was also ejected from the tour, and it seemed like the worst thing imaginable until the Hoogerland incident.
posted by monkeystronghold at 12:46 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for Voeckler not stopping, he's not a medic, not a coach, not a mechanic, and has no business stopping, getting in the way, or abandoning the race because someone else crashed.

You are not expected to stop, indeed, that's the wrong thing to do in most cases. Exceptions -- if it's your teammate, it's okay, unless you're the leader they are supporting, in which case, you let others on the team assist and you ride on. You are expected not to take advantage of another competitors misfortune. Riding on is fine. Where Voeckler pushed the unwritten rule was by apparently attacking to pad the break.

Once again, riding on is fine. Going on, or extending, a break is where the line is crossed. As to the yellow? The leader isn't supposed to pad a lead when someone with a reasonable chance of challenging for the yellow, just as you are not supposed to attack when the yellow falls.

The punishment is, of course, unofficial. How the other riders -- who are, in this case, the judge, jury and executioner, treat it will become obvious in a few days. If Voeckler hits the ground in a break, then we'll know if the riders are treating it as a break-on-the-wounded.
posted by eriko at 12:48 PM on July 12, 2011



Are these guys really burning a couple thousand calories an hour?
posted by Mitheral at 11:40 AM on July 12 [+] [!]


A pro road cyclist does indeed burn around 9000 calories in each stage, so the answer is yes. It is difficult to understand the kind of superhuman suffering that pro cyclists put themselves through during a multi-stage race like the TdF.
posted by Skeptic at 12:50 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought this whole "crashier" thing related to the race organisers purposefully choosing early stages that involved narrow roads and less rider protection from the elements because they wanted wind to be a(n) (more) unusual contributing factor to this Tour. And it's the strength of the wind that has been more of a causative factor for crashes than is normally the case.
posted by peacay at 12:52 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Among those who have criticised Voeckler is at least one of the crash victims, Flecha. Who has also said that he didn't expect anything else from Voeckler, anyway. Voeckler apparently has a reputation as a particularly selfish rider.
posted by Skeptic at 12:59 PM on July 12, 2011


a 14.9lbs piece of metal

Wow, didn't realize they'd gotten so light. I have a cat that weighs more than that.

So remember – when you can’t safely share the lane – control it.

I drive to work on a road that has a bike lane for most of it. At one point, the road narrows dramatically to go under a bridge, and there are currently some orange construction barricades in the bike lane next to the bridge supports. It'd be very easy to hit either side if you weren't paying attention. The smart thing for a cyclist to do is to take over the whole lane, but I see a lot of them try to cut as close to the barricades as they can to give the cars room. When they do this, I slow down and let them go under the bridge rather than riding side-by-side, but I'm terrified that one day someone other driver won't give them that courtesy. There's already a ghost bike in that exact spot.
posted by desjardins at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do they want a dead rider in a Radio Shack jersey on national TV?

I wouldn't put anything past Johan Bruyneel.

As to the difficulty of the earlier stages, some are saying it's the narrowness of much of the parcours, others are arguing that it's the new rules for intermediate sprinting. Instead of several smaller sprints that earn 6 points at the most, we now have a single mid-stage sprint that starts at 20 points for a win, with awards descending from there. Some are arguing that the confusion of sprinters moving to the front while teams try to protect their leaders is leading to crashes. I'm not convinced, but I agree that it requires more systematic study.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:03 PM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


A pro road cyclist does indeed burn around 9000 calories in each stage, so the answer is yes. It is difficult to understand the kind of superhuman suffering that pro cyclists put themselves through during a multi-stage race like the TdF.

Ha. Andy Schleck just tweeted this photo of each rider's daily food intake. Frankly, it looks small to me.
posted by The Michael The at 1:18 PM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


The whole car crash happened when a team car told French TV to get out of the way.

That's misleading, at best. According to reports, Voeckler requested water. His team car (Team Europcar) would have had to pull around the France TV car in order to give Voeckler water. Race Radio ordered the France TV car to let the Team Europcar car ahead to give Voeckler the water. Instead of doing that, the France TV car accelerated around the breakaway. Ill advised - proof being in the pudding, of course.

The team car didn't tell the TV car to get out of the way. Rather, the race organization did, so that the team car could provide an essential service to its member.
posted by entropone at 1:23 PM on July 12, 2011


Skeptic: Voeckler apparently has a reputation as a particularly selfish rider.

Again, since when? He drove the break on Sunday, allowing Sanchez to win the stage. At one point they flashed up a stat that showed him doing 70 percent of the work in a 3 man group!

Also, Voeckler basically saved his entire team last year. When Bbox withdrew their sponsorship, the team were having great difficulty in finding a new title sponsor and almost went bust. Many riders jumped ship and Voeckler, being the highest profile name on the roster, wasn't short of offers. But he'd been with the team his entire career and stuck with them until Jean-René Bernadeau (the team directeur) did a deal with Europcar at the very last minute. Without Voeckler's name recognition and his popularity in France, the team wouldn't exist now.

Voeckler is a showman and an attacker, but seeing as Europcar have no sprinter and no GC hope, that is all they can do. I fail to see how he rides selfishly... he is denying no-one any opportunities by the way he rides.

peacay: I thought this whole "crashier" thing related to the race organisers purposefully choosing early stages that involved narrow roads and less rider protection from the elements because they wanted wind to be a(n) (more) unusual contributing factor to this Tour.

That's certainly a possibility. They've taken a cue from the Giro d'Italia in that regard, which in recent years has gone for a first week with hilly finishes, small twisty roads and not many sprint finishers. The riders hate it, but the fans love it. And in a sport that gains revenue solely from TV viewership and advertising... the fans win.
posted by afx237vi at 1:23 PM on July 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


That driver should be beaten, mauled, and then shot and fed to a honey badger

In this case, at least, honey badger DOES care.


That video almost looks like they did it on purpose, doesn't it?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:28 PM on July 12, 2011


Among those who have criticised Voeckler is at least one of the crash victims, Flecha. Who has also said that he didn't expect anything else from Voeckler, anyway.

Cite?
posted by The Michael The at 1:30 PM on July 12, 2011


The Michael The writes "Andy Schleck just tweeted this photo of each rider's daily food intake. Frankly, it looks small to me."

Olive oil is ~800 calories per 100mL. If they are consuming that entire bottle then that'll explain where most of their calories are coming from.

Skeptic writes "A pro road cyclist does indeed burn around 9000 calories in each stage, so the answer is yes."

Is that just during the stage or each day? If the former I'm amazed; I didn't know it was possible to burn more than ~750 calories an hour via sustained hard endurance.
posted by Mitheral at 1:48 PM on July 12, 2011


anigbrowl: "With regard to criticisms of Voeckler- he did slow after the earlier, larger crash. When Hoogerland and Flecha were taken out by the TV car, Voeckler wasn't technically riding against them. They were working together, riding against the peloton.

I don't give a fuck about the race. I give a fuck about getting off the bicycle and going over to assist the people you were riding alongside a moment before, and demonstrating that helping out an injured person is more important than interrupting a competitive event.
"

It's interesting that's your take on it, because my son's was, "Isn't that a hit and run? The driver of the car should have stopped after he hit them!"

Teammates often help each other after a crash. You can see Vinokourov's guys coming to his rescue; he's a lead rider and it's the job of the team to help the lead rider, often sacrificing their own stage and Tour win dreams to give him every advantage they can. Thor Hushovd and Andy Schleck (fantastic mountain stage rider, narrowly lost to Contador to take 2nd place in the Tour last year) petitioned the peloton to stay together and not attack the lead breakaway until everyone could find out the extent of the injuries after Vinokourov's crash. That was to Thor's advantage at the time, though, as cynical viewers were quick to point out as well. But since Voeckler was in that breakaway with Fletcha and Hoogerland, they were all benefiting from the peloton behind them not attacking, too, and increasing their lead until the car came along.

Reports say Voeckler, Sanchez (who took the stage) and Casar did wait "for a short time" after the car crash. Whether they slowed or stopped completely, I'm not sure. But they couldn't really offer any help, anyway. And Voeckler is a lead rider himself. His teammates probably appreciated the fact that he didn't let them down after their efforts to move him up in the race, even though his attacking the yellow jersey as aggressively as he did in the last 15K just made Schleck and Hushovd look all the better for holding back.

The Bellman: "Not mentioned in the post was Chris Horner's crash in Stage 7. He rode the last 35k of the stage with a concussion and a broken nose, and came across the line not knowing where he was and with no memory of the crash.

That's one of the most disturbing videos I've ever seen. Horner rolls in with no idea where he is or what is going on, obviously suffering from a serious head injury. In the interview his coach blithely says he's been that way since the crash but the assholes from the Radio Shack car let him get back on the bike at the crash site and ride another 35K. Have these people never heard of a Cerebral Hemorrhage? How about just a simple concussion (which he obviously had)? Do they want a dead rider in a Radio Shack jersey on national TV? Those would be my questions. I wonder if they have answers.
"

I found that video frightening, too.* I think Horner was determined to finish so he wouldn't be out of the Tour, but you can't help but feel, watching the video, that someone who could still think straight should have stepped in and stopped him anyway.

*I only saw it after the fact, as we were on vacation in the mountains until Sunday, and the cabin where we stayed had No. Frickin'. Internet. Picked up a few bars on my phone to get my Mefi fix when I could. Beautiful hiking, though!
posted by misha at 2:02 PM on July 12, 2011


For those interested in the massive effort pro cyclists put in to a race like the TdF, SRM have a great blog highlighting the telemetry (heart rate, speed, etc.) from different riders in each stage.

Today they looked at stage winner Andre Griepel's data; the chart for the final 400m of the sprint is pretty unbelievable, peaking at 73 km/h and 1,600 watts of power at the pedals. For Stage 9 they looked at a couple of mid-pack riders, burning ~5,000 calories on an easy-ish stage for them.

Even more fun is SRM's live telemetry for the TdF, but you'll have to wait until they are racing for that.
posted by N-stoff at 2:20 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, didn't realize they'd gotten so light. I have a cat that weighs more than that.

That's the UCI minimum a few years ago, Cannondale had a "legalize my ride" campaign because their bikes were below the limit (which I think might have been higher at the time).


Ha. Andy Schleck just tweeted this photo of each rider's daily food intake. Frankly, it looks small to me.

Bread and pasta have an amazing amount of calories. More than you'd expect, by the size of the portion. That's why people who eat too much starch get so fat.
posted by klanawa at 2:31 PM on July 12, 2011


There's already a ghost bike in that exact spot.

When I first started reading your post, that's the first place I thought of. I'm pretty sure my brother's friend got killed on a scooter there too.
posted by drezdn at 2:46 PM on July 12, 2011


Cite?
posted by The Michael The at 1:30 PM on July 12 [+] [!]


Here. I read the original article in El País, but in the meantime it's all over the interwebs:

Flecha was also critical of new race leader Voeckler’s attitude in the break. Asked how he felt about the French seeming to accelerate following the crash, Flecha replied: “I see that as normal behavior for Voeckler, because he’s always like that in breaks, causing trouble. Just before that, Casar, one of the others in the break, had had a go at him because Voeckler had attacked on a descent after attempting to win the mountains points instead of waiting for those of us who weren’t fighting for them. He was completely focused on the yellow jersey. We all know what he’s like, seeing him act in any other way would have surprised me.”
posted by Skeptic at 2:46 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for Voeckler not stopping, he's not a medic, not a coach, not a mechanic, and has no business stopping, getting in the way, or abandoning the race because someone else crashed. He's under an obligation to finish within a time limit and had no guarantees he wouldn't face some other delay.

Or what, he'll go to bicycle jail? I don't expect him to take up medicine. I expect him to pull over and halt the race because injuries are more important than entertainment, especially in a sport that is facing an ongoing safety crisis. This kind of 'but the race' foolishness is why I don't watch pro cycling any more, although I was once an avid fan of it and enjoyed long-distance cycling as a hobby.

It's interesting that's your take on it, because my son's was, "Isn't that a hit and run? The driver of the car should have stopped after he hit them!"

My point is that everyone should have stopped. In a controlled fashion, eg by slowing down and pulling over to the side of the road. The driver of the car is primarily at fault, but his/her stupidity is only symptomatic of a larger problem, the larger problem being that too many people are racing down roads that are too narrow with too many large support vehicles. When the race organizers don't leave any margin for error, then any errors are inevitably going to be compounded and catastrophic results will ensue.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:01 PM on July 12, 2011


Re burning more than 750 kcal/hr:

Human muscle is about 25% efficient when cycling. Good riders are generally quoted to run about 6W/kg on hard days. Sooo...

Take a good-sized climber at 75kg: that's 450W pedal output. (This is in the neighborhood of the 495W Lance Armstrong climb up Alp d'Huez in 2004, so we know we're not off by too much.) 450 W-hr is 387 kcal. At 25% efficiency, that's 1500 kcal burned per hour.

This is all back-of-the-envelope work, so we could be off by some significant factors, but beating 750 kcal/hr intake energy seems possible for these guys.
posted by introp at 3:43 PM on July 12, 2011


According to livestrong.com, "intense cycling burns anywhere from 2000 to 3000 calories per hour". I can imagine that, in most people, the maximum you can burn in a sustained effort is limited by the oxygen that can effectively be carried to the muscles, and therefore by lung capacity and, crucially, red blood cell count. Pro cyclists typically have enormous lungs (Miguel Indurain famously had a lung capacity of 8 liters), and their whole training is geared to increasing their red blood cell count.
posted by Skeptic at 4:10 PM on July 12, 2011


Wow, didn't realize they'd gotten so light. I have a cat that weighs more than that.

As Klanawa is pointing out that's the mandated minimum, or was. I don't know what it is now. I've seen and held track bikes and sprinters that I believe were under 10 pounds, if I'm recalling correctly. They're really freaky to pick up, like they're filled with helium or something. They're almost 100% carbon fiber with ceramic bearings and a bare minimum of metal. You could probably replace the chain and metal cogs with a belt drive and a plastic or carbon fixed gear single speed cogset and shave off another half a pound or more. I don't know where the state of the art is going, but toothed belt drives seem like a natural for track/sprint single speed bikes if regulations allowed for it, which they probably don't.

I think I've owned boots that weigh more than that. And laptops and skateboards. Really, I think my basic street clothes and pocket stuff is heavier than that even without a backpack.
posted by loquacious at 4:36 PM on July 12, 2011


> peaking at... 1,600 watts of power at the pedals

That's amazing. My guide until now has been this graph from here shows somewhere just above 300 (sustained) Watts for "1st class athletes" with better maintenance of that power as time goes on vs. a normal person dropping from 150 to 90 Watts.

Tetz's point is that you can extend your endurance with only 60 Watts & with only a 100 Watt RC motor system weighing only a few pounds you can push your cruising speed up to 20MPH+. 73km/h, though? Madness!
posted by morganw at 4:56 PM on July 12, 2011


See, I don't fault Voeckler for pushing the breakaway even after the Flecha/Hoogerland crash. Perhaps you could complain that he pushed the breakaway hard even after the Vino crash in the peloton, but when you're in a breakaway you can't risk losing all the work you put in to it on some vague sportsmanship concerns. That and a buck fifty will buy you a cup of coffee, but it won't help you recover lost time.

Since you rarely see strong overall contenders in breakaways, I tend to give them a bit of leeway for how they do/don't react to what's going on in the main field. And even when you do, if #1 heads off with the breakaway and #2 doesn't react, I'm not going to cry for #2 when he gets caught up in some peloton-based excitement. No, I reserve my sportsmanship issues for when it's a head-to-head fight and someone takes advantage of a mechanical fault or bad luck. But Tommy wasn't anywhere near Flecha or Hoogerland in the GC, so, eh.
posted by Kyol at 5:06 PM on July 12, 2011


Voeckler absolutely had to keep riding. If he stops and allows the peleton to catch up, then everybody crosses around the same time and he's had tons of his work for the yellow jersey stripped away by a TV car. The standard is not that you stop for any crash; it's that you stop for one in which the standings will be affected, and even then, not when the finish line is close.

The only other breakaway rider who was any sort of GC contender (currently; neither is likely to win) was Sanchez, who didn't go down, and the crash happened at a point where the chances of establishing a new breakaway were nil. The announcers (including former pros) all said exactly this: in that situation, he was right to press on.

If the riders want to protest, they do it the next day by not really racing, which penalizes nobody, but makes the organizers look bad.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 6:21 PM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's always someone to complain about the behavior--one way or another--of riders who escape a crash or other mechanical problem. The irony is that it comes from Flecha, a guy who seems to only ever attack in an opportunistic fashion.
posted by rhizome at 6:30 PM on July 12, 2011


anigbrowl, you really don't know what you are talking about, you should really learn a bit more before you run off like this....

davejay: I haven't seen the Tour in quite a while, and I'm shocked that television coverage of the event has grown so invasive and dangerous. Seems like they should *at least* limit coverage to motorcycle/scooter/moped vehicles.

They do. That car was carrying a VIP, it had nothing to do with the actual coverage of the race at all. Or, it had nothing to do with the coverage of the race for anybody except the VIP, at least.

introp: Take a good-sized climber at 75kg: that's 450W pedal output. (This is in the neighborhood of the 495W Lance Armstrong climb up Alp d'Huez in 2004, so we know we're not off by too much.) 450 W-hr is 387 kcal. At 25% efficiency, that's 1500 kcal burned per hour.

Those 400-500W figures for pros is for ~1 hour at 100% maximum effort. They absolutely can not sustain that level of effort for much more than 1 hour at a time. I don't know exactly, but 300W is a more realistic average for a hard working stage, 200W average for an easy stage. I guess that puts the calories burned more into the 750-1000 kcal/h range...

Greipel's 1600+W number is impressive, but what really blows my mind is that he averages almost 1400W over 21 seconds. That's more than a 200m sprint for a runner..


In general, cycling has been pretty damned depressing this year. Concussions right left and centre, Van Den Broek's collapsed lung, and Vinokourov with a broken off tip of femur and cracked hip socket. All those at the Tour, but there has been so much more.

Xavier Tondo, a Spanish rider who actually turned in a doping ring, a featherweight climber who nonetheless dreamed of riding Paris-Roubaix, and a 32 year old getting his first real chance and excelling, died in a freak accident on the way out for training in May. Tondo's team mate Mauricio Soler, a fun rider to watch who was making a tremendous comeback from injuries that kept him out of competition for a couple of years crashed out of the Tour de Suisse and suffered massive head trauma; he may never regain proper cognitive function. And Walter Weylandt. There has been even more, at least a couple of prominent riders have been killed by cars while training this year...
posted by Chuckles at 6:40 PM on July 12, 2011


That's the UCI minimum a few years ago, Cannondale had a "legalize my ride" campaign because their bikes were below the limit (which I think might have been higher at the time).

That UCI weight limit is still 6.8kg, it hasn't changed. At the time of Cannondale's campaign they only broke the limit on their smallest size in a team build. These days pretty much everyone can hit the limit without too much effort thanks to the ubiquitous use of carbon fibre and improvements in designing with it.

This shows how Trek bolt weights into the bottom bracket axle (the axles are hollow) to hit the target weight. Each bike will need different weights since the frame sizes are different and riders will use different pedals and saddles.

While the weight limit was in theory added for safety reasons, in practice they still make the bikes as light as possible, and then add weight back on with power meters or deep section carbon wheels or whatever, that they wouldn't run if they where allowed to ride lighter bikes.
posted by markr at 6:41 PM on July 12, 2011


I don't think weight is really effecting the safety of bikes. These crashes aren't being caused by catastrophic mechanical failures. There is some suggestion that deep V rims cause a lot of problems because they make maintaining a straight line in cross winds much harder. Of course they also improve the aerodynamics.. I can see an argument for increased drag designs in order to limit speed a bit, but I'm not sure it would be very effective.
posted by Chuckles at 6:51 PM on July 12, 2011


Also, I've read that carbon fibre rims are terrible for break performance, which I can totally believe. Seems ludicrous to think that they'd be out there with poorly performing breaks, but...
posted by Chuckles at 6:53 PM on July 12, 2011


I think CF rims with the appropriate pads are okay in the dry, but can still be patchy in the wet, you get decreased braking initially until the pad dries the rim, then the power comes in. I agree that none of the accidents we're seeing have much to do with equipment though.
posted by markr at 7:13 PM on July 12, 2011


Carbon rims are unimpressive for brake performance if you're a normal guy. If you're willing to neigh-destroy a set of rims every stage, you get some very nice abrasive pads from SRAM/Shimano/Campy and they'll stop at the tire's braking limit just like any other rim.
posted by introp at 7:14 PM on July 12, 2011


For example here are some wheels for BMC to use at the Tour of California. You reckon they'd mind if I grabbed a set?
posted by markr at 7:35 PM on July 12, 2011


Teammates often help each other after a crash. You can see Vinokourov's guys coming to his rescue; he's a lead rider and it's the job of the team to help the lead rider, often sacrificing their own stage and Tour win dreams to give him every advantage they can.

Most of the team is there with no intent of winning. Winning is incidental. Domestiques are often paired up with dominant riders on identical setups so they can swap the lesser rider's bike out and he can wait for a replacement.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:53 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Vino help wasn't what it looked like. As far as I know, a lot of those riders were part of the crash. And, despite the fact that one of the guys helping him up the cliff is a rider, the riders aren't there for anything except sporting assistance. The team car and team doctor and neutral service people and etc. are the ones there to help in a non-sporting capacity.
posted by Chuckles at 9:34 PM on July 12, 2011


These guys are amazing athletes but man, why so many damn cars? Just rent a few helicopters for the video.
posted by bardic at 9:44 PM on July 12, 2011


Oh, there are plenty of choppers in the skies, and most of the video comes from motorcycle videographers. Aside from the ref car(s), the neutral service car(s), the team cars and medical support vehicles there are a fair number of VIP cars. I don't think you could get rid of anything but the VIP cars, though.
posted by Kyol at 11:22 PM on July 12, 2011


Andy manages to drop Contador, but Basso and Evans stay right with him till the end. I didn't expect to see that!! :P
posted by Chuckles at 9:06 AM on July 14, 2011


Yeah, for all Paul and Phil were hyping Evans earlier this Tour, I remember him as a marginal sprinter but not much of a climber at all. Andy didn't look too sure, though. I wonder if we'll have a clear leader by time we get out of the Pyrenees?

I do love me a mountain finish, though. It's not as dynamic and easily dissected as a good sprint leadout, but it's a blast to see the feints and reactions.
posted by Kyol at 3:29 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yay, Thor! (Small country patriotism, sorry/)
posted by Dumsnill at 10:38 AM on July 15, 2011


Listening to CBC Radio try to say Hushovd's name while he was in yellow was painful. Hus-od you idiots!!!

But then, what do I expect, they can't even say the Canadian rider's name right :)
posted by Chuckles at 5:39 PM on July 15, 2011


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