The Tour de France has celebrated its centenary in 2003 and continues to be the best known of the three ‘grand tours’ and is a gruelling 2,200 mile bike ride that tests riders’ endurance over three exhausting weeks. Although the race ventures into countries outside of France the finishing line has always been in Paris. This year’s race begins on the 2nd July so there’s not much time for you to arrange your Dover Calais ferry if you haven’t already done so.
I enjoy cycling but have never been that keen on the sport, it’s the reputation of drug-taking riders that puts me off. Most sports have issues with banned substances but ever since the Tour de France started, the participants have infamously been caught drug taking in order to survive the punishing race. It tends not to be documented in the Tour de France Guide but alcohol, ether, strychnine, cocaine and chloroform have all been used in the past. In 1967, British cyclist, Tom Simpson, died from a heart attack on Mont Ventoux due to complications arising from taking the performance enhancing drug amphetamine.
Since its beginnings, four cyclists have died, although only two were directly due to racing. Read more.
The 2011 Course Map
It is an accident-plagued sport and one which provides many memorable and shocking images of crashes, collisions and pile-ups that leave the riders with bruises, broken bones and, occasionally, more serious injuries.
When the racers are so tightly packed it doesn’t take much for one accident to snowball.
In 2009 the Saxo Bank cyclist, Jens Voight withdrew from the race following a high speed crash during a mountain descent on stage 16.
Spectator’s actions can cause crashes too. This next image shows the repercussions of an escaped carrier bag fouling Armstrong’s handlebars.
This following crash sees Pinotti off to hospital suffering from concussion.
Here a drainage ditch claims victims during the final stretch of the seventh stage in the Tour de France in 2002.
One year later, the Netherlands’ Marc Lotz required X-Rays after an accident on only the finish of the first stage.
In 1997, poor Fabiano Fontanelli suffered from over-exuberant fans straying onto the road. It’s not much fun hitting the road doing 40mph plus.
Haselbacher, an Austrian cyclist, experienced a major clothing malfunction following a spill that saw his 2003 chances take a tumble.
In 2004 Arvesen of Norway and Casper of France became croppers during the sprint finish at the end of the second stage. More clothing problems ensued with a bit of shorts damage and a hint of ‘tarmac rash’. Nasty.
While these accidents are undoubtedly painful there have been four fatalities. In 1995 Italy’s Olympic gold medallist, Fabio Casartelli suffered lethal injuries after a misjudgement while doing 55mph resulted in him crashing on the Col de Portet d’Aspet pass on the 15th stage. A monument now stands at the crash scene.
It’s not just the cyclists themselves that are the victims of accidents. In 2009 a woman was killed and two other spectators were injured after being hit by a Republican Guard motorbike in Wittelsheim. Read more
Guest blogger, Greg Coltman, writes prolifically about all aspects of riding and driving and was one of the first people to champion the wearing of cyclist’s personal protective gear.