Cycling is a sport that mixes tragedy and triumph like few others. While there is perhaps no greater joy in the sport than a solo victory, there is no greater pain than that of a high-speed crash.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Tour de France. Pushing their bodies to the limit, cyclists from all over the world choose to walk the fine line of danger and reward, sacrificing their bodies for the chance to make history.
Unfortunately, not all of their stories have a happy ending. Here are seven of the Tour's worst crashes that are every bit as infamous as the race's greatest victories.
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7. Joseba Beloki, 2003
A brutal day of heat ruined Joseba Beloki's chances of up-ending Lance Armstrong in the 2003 tour. Entering the day in second place overall, Beloki hit a patch of road tar that had melted from the blazing temperatures. To compound the matter, Beloki was in the middle of a high-speed descent with Lance Armstrong on his wheel.
While this crash is now remembered for Lance Armstrong's last-second decision to navigate around Beloki by crossing an open field, the crash itself was one of the more horrific in Tour de France history. Beloki ended up with a fractured femur, elbow and wrist, and he wouldn't return to action again until 2004.
6. Marcus Burghardt, 2010
This crash is proof anything can happen at the Tour de France. Marcus Berghardt of Team Telekom was hanging on at the back of the pack when suddenly a beautiful Golden Retriever decided it was time to cross the road. Unfortunately, Burghardt didn't see the dog until it was right in front of him. The crash wasn't a stellar promo for carbon fiber wheels, either—Burghardt's front wheel snapped in half instantly upon impact.
Miraculously, neither Burghardt nor the dog suffered any injuries from the collision.
5. Jens Voigt, 2009
Perhaps the scariest crash to watch of the bunch, Jens Voigt's epic disaster descending the col du Petit Saint Bernard, is one that cycling fans won't soon forget. Voigt was traveling in excess of 60 mph when his front wheel hit a bump in the road, sending him face first over the handlebars. To make matters worse, a trailing photographer on a motorcycle just missed running him over.
TV cameras captured Voigt lying completely still for several minutes—leaving most of the viewing audience holding their breath in horror. In the end, Voigt survived, suffering a fractured cheekbone and a severe concussion.
4. Bernard Hinault, 1985
Frenchman Bernard Hinault was on his way to claiming his fifth Tour de France victory in 1985 when this disaster struck on stage 14. Hinault, in the yellow jersey, was with a group of chasers one minute behind American Greg LeMond. On the sprint to the line, Hinault and five others were tangled in a major pile up. Though the tour does not count time losses due to a crash in the final kilometer, riders must still cross the finish line without assistance. Hinault, having just flown over his handlebars and face planted into the asphalt, was bloodied badly with a broken nose.
After receiving medical attention for several minutes, Hinault was able to pedal across the finish line to keep the yellow jersey. More heroic, though, was Hinault's ability to survive the stages that followed. Despite breathing difficulties from his broken nose, Hinault still managed to capture his fifth Tour de France victory.
3. Johnny Hoogerland, 2011
Cars will always be a cyclist's biggest enemy. With 36km to go in the ninth stage of the 2011 Tour de France, Johnny Hoogerland was side swiped by a rival's team car. As bad as that may sound, the collision wasn't where the damage occurred. Hoogerland and Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha were sent flying into a barbed-wire fence. The blood and gashes on Hoogerland's legs looked like something out of a WWII movie.
Years later, Hoogerland is said to still suffer from back pain, mood swings and insomnia as a result of the horrific incident.
2. Laurent Jalabert, 1994
French favorite Laurent Jalabert was so bloodied after his crash in the '94 Tour that he promised his wife to change his style of riding. Known as a sprinter at the time, Jalabert and several other riders crashed into a policeman standing along the barriers for crowd control. Replays show the policeman stepping out just slightly as the riders approached—a controversy that eventually went to court.
Jalabert suffered broken teeth, fractured cheekbones and a broken clavicle. Returning to action the following year, Jalabert made good on his promise by turning himself into an all-around rider who focused on the one-day classics instead of the more dangerous run-ins to the finish.
1. Giuseppe Guerini, 1999
While this crash was nowhere near the most bloody, most fans watching the 1999 TDF were completely horrified when Guerini slammed into a photographer near the top of Alpe d' Huez. Guerini was closing in on the victory of his career atop the most iconic climb in cycling when a man jumped in front of him to take a picture. There was nowhere for Guerini to go, and he ended up on his backside with the pack closing in.
It was a moment that made your heart sink for the Italian, but luckily his adrenaline kicked in and Guerini was able to win the stage.
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