LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
Four of the pre-race favourites conceded more than seven minutes after a 25-rider pile-up happened on a two-mile stretch of tidal causeway that was still covered with seawater barely an hour before the race arrived. ‘It had a huge influence on the outcome of the Tour and it was folly to take the race there,’ says writer Richard Moore. When the Tour returned to the Île de Noirmoutier six years later, the route took the bridge as opposed to the seaweedstrewn causeway. Attempted plans to spice up the Tour backfired when 14 out of 20 teams protested a ban on radio earpieces by slow-pedalling during Stage 10 from Limoges to Issoudun, which was won by Mark Cavendish. The UCI decided against repeating the experiment on Stage 13 – ‘to put an end to the controversy which is compromising the running of the Tour’. Prior to the race, Jens Voigt had voiced his concerns: ‘Next they’ll be asking us to ride for two days without cables in our brakes.’ A TV car trying to overtake a breakaway knocked Juan Antonio Flecha to the floor and sent Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland flying into a barbed wire fence after swerving to avoid hitting a tree. The driver was kicked off the Tour but returned the next year, while Hoogerland needed 33 stitches. Four riders, including Alexander Vinokourov, were also forced out after a pile-up on a descent, leaving Fabian Cancellara to suggest the organisers ‘were looking for the most dangerous roads’.