There’s something strange about the 2011 installment of the Tour de France.
Perhaps the weather is to blame, or faster speeds or simple misfortune, but whatever the cause, the mounting tally of horrific crashes may make this the bloodiest race in the Tour’s history.
Saturday it was Laurens ten Dam of the Netherlands whose face-first flip over the handlebars during the 15th stage made him the latest crash victim — joining Johnny Hoogerland and Juan-Antonio Flecha as one of numerous riders to absorb a serious case of road rash.
But even more incredible than the graphic images and videos that continue to roll in of baffling blunders and bloodied bodies is the fact that the fallen riders continue to pick themselves up, get back on their bikes and keep riding.
Ten Dam took eight stitches Sunday — 25 fewer than Hoogerland — but fortunately avoided any fractures, and when asked about his desire to continue, the tough-as-nails Dutchman told his manager (via Cycling News):
“You don’t quit the Tour because of a thick lip.”
You’re a braver man than I, Laurens. How you finished the stage with a wrap covering your nose and blood dripping into your battered mouth is beyond me. And then you did it again Sunday without being able to eat solid food. Good on ya!
But at least you were responsible for your own spill — watch ten Dam come around the bend to wide and find the grass below — unlike Hoogerland and Flecha who owe their wounds to an inexplicable driving error by a French television vehicle.
Alexandre Vinokourov, who fractured his leg after a brutal crash into a heavily-wooded ravine that forced him out of the competition, announced Sunday that he will retire.
No word on yet ESPN personality Michael Smith’s initial reaction to ten Dam’s wipeout.
More Tour de France coverage:
Photo gallery: 2011 Tour de France