July 11, 2011 Leave a comment
For those of you that have followed this year’s Tour de France coverage, there was a spectacular crash on Stage 9 yesterday caused by one of the media support vehicles that swerved into one of the riders going 40 mph. The driver was clearly at fault, attempting to pass the riders after being instructed not to, then visibly swerving directly into the riders once the road began to narrow during the pass. There were two riders affected, the actual rider hit by the vehicle (Juan Antonio Flecha) and the rider behind Flecha (Johnny Hoogerland) who was hurled into the air upside down and directly into a barbed wire fence… again, going 40 mph. Remarkably, both of these riders managed to remount their bikes and finish the stage, despite Hoogerland’s shorts being completely ripped from his body and blood gushing down his legs for the remaining hour or so of racing.
Hoogerland got the worst of it from an injury standpoint with 33 stitches, but both of these men were in a 9-rider breakaway and each had a chance for a stage win in this year’s Tour. You have to understand that winning even one stage of the Tour de France can make your career as a rider, so the emotional turmoil from having that opportunity taken from you must be hard to bear. Not to mention the mental trauma associated with such a horrific accident where there was no warning and no rider fault. To make matters worse, Hoogerland is the leader in the King of the Mountains classification (wearing the Polka Dot Jersey) which he will likely not be able to defend. Hoogerland’s podium appearance after the stage shows his physical and emotional distress.
It was widely speculated yesterday that there would be legal consequences for the media company and driver that failed to obey instructions, then caused such a consequential accident. Hoogerland’s Tour is likely over, certainly any success in the balance of the race has evaporated. Yet his team manager announced today that the driver had taken ownership of his mistake, apologized and that Hoogerland had accepted his apology. There would be no legal action taken. Matter closed.
Some may think that this sort of risk simply comes with the territory in one of the most dangerous competitive sports in existence. Well, sure, but the argument “that’s the risk you take” rarely stops individuals from threatening or taking legal action in other situations, personal or professional. And certainly not when there is neglect involved and the act is caught on tape. We live in a culture where a hot coffee spill gets you $640,000 in cold, hard cash.
I find Hoogerland’s reaction commendable. It’s refreshing to see human compassion, forgiveness and calmer heads ruling every once in awhile.
What do you think?