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LE LIORAN, France (AFP) ─ Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland received 33 stitches to close deep gashes in his leg after he was hit by a car on the ninth stage of the Tour de France, his team said Monday.
Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha 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.
However the two were hit by an overtaking France TV car 35km from the finish. Vacansoleil rider Hoogerland was sent somersaulting into a barbed wire fence while Team Sky’s 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.
Hoogerland went to the hospital in Saint-Flour on Sunday night where doctors used 33 stitches to close the deep wounds in his leg.
Pictures show the car trying to overtake the five-man breakaway but suddenly swerving in an attempt to 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 begged forgiveness for the incident.
“France Television apologizes 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,” the network said a public statement.
“France Television will respect fully the measures which will be taken by the ASO to improve safety.”
Sunday’s incident was the second such accident on the race.
On Wednesday, Denmark’s Nicki Sørensen was lucky to escape serious injury when a motorbike carrying a Getty photographer tried to squeeze past the peloton through a non-existent gap on the side of the road.
The motorbike clipped the Saxo Bank rider, who crashed to the ground heavily. He is still in the race.