Tour de France 2011: Car taken off race after crash

Flecha and Hoogerland
Flecha and Hoogerland were knocked off the road by a television car

Tour de France organisers took a television car off the race after it sent two riders flying across the road on a crash-marred ninth stage.

The car hit Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha as it overtook, while Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland fell into a fence.

"They caused the crash of both riders. This behaviour is intolerable," said Tour director Christian Prudhomme.

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler took the leader's yellow jersey after the stage, won by Luis-Leon Sanchez.

Flecha and Hoogerland got back up to complete the stage, bloodied and over 16 minutes off the pace, although Hoogerland took the King of the Mountains jersey for his earlier exploits.

But the memory of Wouter Weylandt's death from a crash in May's Giro d'Italia was clearly fresh in Hoogerland's mind.

"We can still be happy that we're alive. Nobody can be blamed for this," he said.

"It's a horrible accident and I was in it but I said to Flecha, 'We're still alive and Wouter Weylandt died in a crash."

Sanchez beat Voeckler in the sprint after a three-and-a-half hour breakaway - also involving Hoogerland and Flecha - that spanned six big climbs.

Previous leader Thor Hushovd finished six minutes and 42 seconds behind.

A large crash after 102km slowed defending champion Alberto Contador and forced big names Jurgen van den Broeck and Alexander Vinokourov to retire.

Vinokourov, 37, who reportedly suffered a fractured femur, was riding in what he said would be his final Tour and his career may now have come to an end.

Scot David Millar finished alongside team-mate Hushovd after suffering two crashes.

"I think there was some oil on the road and I just came slap down. Then the next one was horrific, coming down a high-speed descent. Me and Thor just made it by and they all went down behind us," he said.

"It's one of the scariest crashes I've seen - carnage.

"The sport is so fast, there are so many of us on the road going for the same thing and there are more risks."

Voeckler, who spent 10 days in the yellow jersey in 2004, rose from 19th overall to the head of the general classification, 1min 49 sec ahead of Sanchez, with Australian Cadel Evans the best of the favourites, 2min 26 sec back.

Voeckler was part of a breakaway for three-and-a-half hours

"I know it's impossible for me to keep it 10 days like 2004 but one thing I know is that I'll keep it tomorrow because it's a rest day," he joked.

Philippe Gilbert won the sprint for fourth, further securing his hold on the green jersey with 217 points, 64 ahead of third-placed Mark Cavendish.

Contador, who was held up in a crash in the first stage and hit the deck in the fifth stage, fell off his bike after his handlebars got tangled with Russian Vladimir Karpets's saddle.

He now lies 16th in the standings, 4min 6sec behind Voeckler, and is hoping Monday's rest day will help him recover.

"I fell on the same knee that I hurt when I crashed the previous times," he said.

"I'm actually quite worried because I have pain in that knee. I'm going to need to recover from that, I'm not feeling great."

Stage eight result:

1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Rabobank) 5hrs 27mins 09secs

2. Thomas Voeckler (Fra/Europcar) +5"

3. Sandy Casar (Fra/FDJ) +13"

4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Omega Pharma - Lotto) +3:59"

5. Peter Velits (Svk/HTC - Highroad)

6. Cadel Evans (Aus/BMC Racing)

7. Andy Schleck (Lux/Leopard)

8. Tony Martin (Ger/HTC - Highroad)

9. Frank Schleck (Lux/Leopard)

10. Damiano Cunego (Italy/Lampre)

Overall standings:

1. Thomas Voeckler (Fra/Europcar) 38hrs 35mins 11secs

2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Rabobank) +1:49"

3. Cadel Evans (Aus/BMC Racing) +2:26"

4. Frank Schleck (Lux/Leopard) +2:29"

5. Andy Schleck (Lux/Leopard) +2:37"

6. Tony Martin (Ger/HTC - Highroad)+2:38"

7. Peter Velits (Slo/HTC - Highroad)

8. Andreas Kloeden (Ger/RadioShack) +2:43"

9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Omega Pharma - Lotto) +2:55"

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Leopard) +3:08