Car crash overshadows Sanchez’s stage victory

TEAM Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha and Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland were fortunate not to suffer serious injury when they were wiped out by a television vehicle as an incident-packed Tour de France suffered further casualties on stage nine in the Massif Central.

Rabobank’s Luis Leon Sanchez won the 208-kilometre ninth stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour, with Thomas Voeckler five seconds behind in second ­– assuming the yellow jersey from Thor Hushovd in the process.

But the main talking points were the overtaking France 2 car which careered into Flecha and Hoogerland with 35km remaining and an earlier crash which saw four riders abandon ahead of today’s first rest day. While apparently trying to avoid a tree, the car clipped Flecha, who slammed to the tarmac, taking Hoogerland with him.

The Spaniard and the Dutchman were miraculously soon back on their bikes, both displaying torn jerseys following an incident which had echoes of the fifth stage when a photographer’s motorbike clipped Danish rider Nicki Sorensen.

Defending champion Alberto Contador of the Saxo Bank-SunGard team was later also unseated, but was able to rejoin the peloton, before a major collision on the descent of the category two Col du Pas de Peyrol, 102km from the finishing line.