AURILLAC, France (AFP) – Team Sky’s Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha, who was hit by an overtaking France TV car during the Tour de France, has expressed his regret that the driver had not come to say sorry for causing the accident.“He hasn’t come to say sorry and I think that if he were to come, I wouldn’t even talk with him,” Flecha said in comments published by Spanish newspaper El Pais on Tuesday. “France TV also did not say sorry to me.”
Flecha and Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland had been part of a five-man breakaway that was vying for victory in Sunday’s 208km stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour in the Massif Central.
The pair were hit by the France TV car 35km from home. Vacansoleil rider Hoogerland was sent somersaulting into a barbed wire fence while Flecha hit the deck at full speed.
Both riders finished the race, with Hoogerland stepping on to the podium, in tears, to receive the best climber’s polka dot jersey. He later received 33 stitches to close deep gashes in his leg.
The car was seen trying to overtake the five-man breakaway but pulling in prematurely to try and avoid hitting a tree.
Furious Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said the car had failed to heed directives on the race’s official radio channel and so was thrown off the race.
The television company involved did actually apologise for the incident.
“France Television apologises to the riders, the teams and to the ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation) for the accident during the ninth stage of the Tour de France which was caused by a technical assistance vehicle covering the race,” said a statement.
“France Television will respect fully the measures which will be taken by the ASO to improve safety.”