Brave return by Flecha & Hoogerland

You have got to admire Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha and Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland for their brave return to the Tour De France two days after being knocked off their bikes by a careless TV crew car.

Simply making the start line was a major achievement by Team Sky’s Flecha and Hoogerland  of Vacansoleil. But neither made an impact in a race won by André Greipel, who edged out former teammate Mark Cavendish in a thrilling finish to stage 10 of the Tour.

Sunday’s accident was the latest in a series that have blighted the sport over the last couple of years.

Last year Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen ran into a cameraman after crossing the finish line during stage six of the 2010 Tour and was taken to a hospital with back injuries. But the biggest disaster came two months ago when Belgian Wouter Weylandt died in a freak accident.

This time Flecha was lucky to escape serious injury when he was clipped by the French TV car during a breakaway in Sunday’s Stage 9. He tumbled over his handlebars and slid into Holland’s Johnny Hoogerland who came off with the more serious injuries.

Flecha suffered mainly cuts and grazes, while Hoogerland flew into a barbed wire fence and needed 33 stitches. But the Dutchman was looking on the bright side when he told Agence France-Presse. “It’s a horrible accident and I was in it. I said to Flecha, ‘We’re still alive and Wouter Weylandt died in a crash.’”

The latest incident that flattened Flecha and Hoogerland was the second media-related crash of this year’s Tour de France. During last week’s stage 5 a photo motorcycle knocked Denmark’s Nicki Sorenson off his bike. Team managers are hoping the number of crashes so far in the Tour will lead cycling’s governing body to reconsider its decision to ban radio communication during race.