Every day when we sit down to watch the live TV feeds there is always the nagging question, "Will there be important incidents?" Today scared us to death.
A 6-man breakaway was out in front. Then, at about the 105 km mark with the peloton in a 10 km 70 - 80 km/h highspeed pursuit down the Puy Mary, a group of riders missed a turn and several took off over a guard rail and into the trees with others scattered along the road. At least Alexandre Vinokourov of Pro Team Astana, with a suspected broken pelvis, and Jurgen Van Den Broeck of Omega Pharma-Lotto, were out of the tour. Vinokourov, always a Lead Graffiti favorite and always guaranteed to not duck a challenge, was the only major contendor to really try and challenge the top contenders in yesterday's "cluck cluck" ride.
In a show of solidarity (we would call it etiquette), the peloton slowed down and let the fallen riders catch up before proceeding. In the meantime the breakaway group was charging forward.
Then came one of the most bizarre incidents I've ever seen in the Tour. A television support car, riding close to the edge of the narrow road, veered into the road to avoid a tree that was growing absurdly close to the road's edge. The card ran solidly into Juan Antonio Flecha of Sky Procycling, knocking him abruptly to the road. That alone would have been something we would be seeing in film clips for the next decade. But then Flecha fell into Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil-DCM, who took a spectacular head-over-heals somersault with his bike, falling directly into a barbed wire fence. His bike actually jumped the fence. It was replayed over and over on the TV broadcast and all you could do was watch in stunned silence.
Amazingly, everyone got up and rejoined and finished the race, although at a slower pace. Both Flecha and Hoogerland were awarded the 'aggressive rider' prize, the first time it has ever gone to two riders on the same stage. They had to hold up Hoogerland's part of the award ceremony for more than 20 minutes, where in tears (and you couldn't tell if he was happy or in complete pain) he was awarded the top climber Polka Dot Jersey. As if all of that weren't enough he had to go back up on the podium to accept the 'most aggressive' rider prize. Yeah. Mark him down for 'most agressive.'
It is a good day for a rest day. We need one after that stage.
Defining a bit of the design, our tree is actually a sun we had made into wood type for some really hot day later in the tour and those arrows used to represent the two Os had been made to represent 180° turns in the mountains (check out Alpe d'Huez on 19 July). Nice to give them multiple identities. Interesting that Hoogerland ends in "land" which he did in spectacular fashion.You can probably get the rest of it. Our guest contributors were good sports when we did that 6th run with only the Red Cross.
Joining with us for the day were architects Donna Globus and Paul Thompson.
The peloton slowdown and the subsequent success of the breakaway changed the Yellow Jersey, giving Flecha a lead that will take some effort to bring back. There will definitely be new strategies for how to win the Yellow Jersey in Paris for a lot of teams.