Tour de France: Crash could prompt legal action

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The Independent Online

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford refused to rule out the possibility of taking legal action as Tour de France organisers and French police today continued investigations into the incident which saw Juan Antonio Flecha hit by a car.

Flecha was in the five-man breakaway 35 kilometres from the end of yesterday's 208km ninth stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour when he was struck by a French television vehicle, slamming to the tarmac and knocking fellow escapee Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) off the road and into a barbed wire fence.

Tour organisers Amaury Sports Organisation excluded the car for the remainder of the race and have opened an investigation, while police are making enquiries and gathering statements.

Team Sky are co-operating fully with the investigation into the incident which could see further ramifications.

Speaking at the Team Sky hotel in the Massif Central on today's rest day, Brailsford said: "It was plain for everyone to see - that crash shouldn't have happened.

"Everybody saw it, everyone saw the severity of it so I don't think we need to fan the flames of that anymore.

"Once you've got the facts then you can decide and evaluate whether there's an opportunity for the police to do something.

"There are different options available.

"We need to have a clear picture of what those options are before we then decide which one we may or may not wish to pursue.

"We're jumping ahead of ourselves if we start talking about options - we've got to determine what they are first."

Asked specifically about the possibility of legal proceedings, Brailsford added: "All the options includes anything you can think of.

"All the options is all the options."

The collision yesterday was the second incident involving a vehicle travelling with the race, after last Wednesday Danish rider Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank-SunGard) crashed after brushing a photographer's motorbike.

Brailsford said the investigation was important to ensure such an accident is not repeated and insisted Team Sky's discussions with ASO, race director Christian Prudhomme, the French television station and law enforcement agencies will remain private.

He added: "There's a lot going on, but for us it's behind closed doors. "That's what we'll do quietly. It's not something we'll do in the public domain."

Flecha's first reaction after tumbling to the tarmac was to get back on his bike.

He said: "It was instinct. The first thing as a cyclist you do is look for your bike and to go again.

"The fork was broken, I was bleeding everywhere, I saw Johnny lying there.

"It took a while to realise. I took my spare bike and then I started feeling myself, my elbow was getting swollen and my knee was bleeding."

Despite today being a rest day, all the cyclists go out for a ride to keep their bodies ticking over.

Flecha, though, was unable to join his seven Team Sky colleagues - leader Bradley Wiggins having already returned home with a fractured collarbone - after travelling to hospital for X-rays.

The Spaniard feared he had suffered a fractured elbow, but scans were clear and he plans to start tomorrow's 158km 10th stage from Aurillac to Carmaux.

Flecha said: "Tomorrow I'll be able to ride, how well I don't know but I really don't care.

"At first I want to see how everything goes. I'm thinking more long term.

"I'm more concerned about the Pyrenees. I can't bypass the Pyrenees."

Flecha received a phone call from Prudhomme this morning while he was at the hospital and has had one stitch on a cut sustained on his knee.

The wound required further treatment, but further dressing would restrict Flecha's ability to peddle.

He added: "I can't say it's good. I can just say it's looking okay.

"There are many different types of crashes but that was something you don't expect - it shouldn't happen.

"I was having lots of fun in this Tour and enjoying it a lot. I was doing well so far.

"I hope I can keep enjoying the race the way I have been doing so far."