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Over the 125 years history of the Tour de France, there had been many altering crashes and accidents. With the 2023 Tour de France entering its crucial point and Stage 14 of this year’s edition ending with a ‘killer’ downhill we decide to look back at some of the most notorious and famous Tour de France crashes.
Before we start we want to say that on this list we don’t include any crashes that occurred during the current 2023 Tour. The wounds of those that suffered them are still pretty painful. If we had done so, our list would surely have included the 2023 Tour de France crash during stage 8 that saw the retiring 34-time stage winner Mark Cavendish breaking his collarbone and having to abandon his last Tour and the chance to better the legendary Eddy Merckx for most Tour stage wins.
What are the 5 worst Tour de France crashes in history?
Here is our list of the top 5 most famous and notorious Tour de France crashes in history:
1. Joseba Beloki, 2003
The 2003 Tour de France was right at its climax and Joseba Beloki was 2nd in the GC right behind the disgraced now American Lance Armstrong. Beloki was attacking and shrinking the gap between the two in every stage for 3 consecutive days. Then during an extremely hot day in the mountains disaster struck and Beloki crashes out in the most freakish of Tour de France accidents ever recorded.
Beloki was attacking Armstrong on a sharp downhill. The entire day the temperature had been scorching. This was when Beloki’s front tire hit a melted patch of tarmac and send the rider in a heap on the hard rocky bank. Beloki ended up with a fractured femur, elbow and wrist. He needed nearly a full year to recover.
2. Bernard Hinault, 1985
The legendary 5-time Tour de France winner won his 5th and final title in 1985 in the most dramatic of circumstances and after overcoming one of the most notorious Tour de France crashes. During stage 14 when holding only a minute lead in the race for the yellow jersey Hinault got entangled with a bunch of other riders during a spring finish.
A crash in the final kilometre doesn’t lead to lost time but Hinault still needed to cross the line to stay in the Tour. After a prolonged period of medical attention, Hinault managed to get back on his bike and roll over the line. He looked awful with a bleeding broken nose, ruined jersey and badly bruised elbow. Amazingly, Hinault managed to race on and despite huge difficulties breathing through his broken nose the Frenchman was the 1985 Tour de France winner in the end.
3. Johnny Hoogerland, 2011
The 2011 Tour de France crash of Johnny Hoogerland was arguably the most devastating viewing ever and the way Hoogerland looked right after the incident was more suitable for a scene from a WWII movie and not a cycling competition.
It was one of the many rival cars overtaking Hoogerland during the 11th stage that hit him sideways while he was travelling at 36mph. This sent Hoogerland hurling over the top of his head and straight into a nasty barbed wire fence by the road. The wounds and the amount of blood gushing from all of them ended Hoogerland’s career and left long-wasting damage. Even over a decade after his Tour de France accident, Johnny Hoogerland says that he still suffers from back pain, mood swings and insomnia, all directly related to that one crash.
4. Laurent Jalabert, 1994
The French legend Laurent Jalabert had a career-altering Tour de France crash during the 1994 edition. The famous sprinter was charging towards the line of a stage when he crashed into a policeman that had stepped on the road for crowd control.
Jalabert was badly blooded during the accident. He had broken teeth, a fractured cheekbone and a broken clavicle. After this accident, he altered his riding style and was never a sprinter again. Jalabert turned into an all-rounder and focused mainly on winning one-day classics.
The policeman that caused this Tour de France crash was taken to court and made to pay a significant amount of bodily damage to the 7 riders that got badly hurt in that particular Tour de France crash.
5. Giuseppe Guerini, 1999
The last of our top 5 Tour de France crashes has a happy ending but it still caused major drama when it happened. During the 1999 Tour, the Italian rider Guerini was charging towards the most famous stage win of his career at the top of the legendary Alpe d’Huez. However, a few kilometres before the finish a fan jumped in the middle of the road to take a picture of Guerini. With nowhere to go the rider crashed into the fan and went flying on the hard tarmac.
At least this story had a happy ending with Guerini brushing himself off quickly and still riding on to claim the stage win. As it turned out when Guerini retired this remained his most significant triumph. How close he was to miss on it though!
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