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Johnny Hoogerland gained a new legion of fans for his heroic ride to claim the KOM jersey after a television car blasted him off the road and into a barbed wire fence. With blood pouring from his legs and backside, Hoogerland soldiered on to the finish of stage 9, where he first went on stage, in tears, to receive his jersey, before being loaded into an ambulance for a ride to the hospital where he received 33 stitches.
Luckily, Monday was a rest day, which allowed Hoogerland to recover somewhat.
“This morning was better than yesterday,” Hoogerland said before stage 10. “Yesterday I couldn’t get out of the bed. This morning we woke up at 7:30 because we had to have the whole team controlled by UCI. Finally I had a good night and then they were there.”
Vacansoleil had a white Ridely Noah painted up with polka dots to match his jersey. Hoogerland started the day with a red race number, signifying the most aggressive rider from the previous stage. Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha, who was also brutally crashed by the TV car as it passed the breakaway, also wore a red number. It was the first time in Tour de France history that two riders shared the most aggressive prize.
In a Tour filled with crashes, Hoogerland’s experience typifies the two challenges downed riders face — recovery from racing and recovery from injury.
“I slept the first night four hours, and last night six hours,” Hoogerland said. “That’s 10 hours total, which is was I need in one night. 21 stages. I need to recover from the stages, and I need to recover from my wounds. It’s hard for my body. Yesterday I measured my heart rate. Normally it’s 40 in the morning, but yesterday it was 50 because my body is just working, working, working.”
With the KOM jersey in their possession, the Pro Continental Vacansoleil team was intent to keep working to hold it. After all, it came at quite a price.