Back in the Saddle

A brutal crash ended Jens Voigt's 2009 Tour de France. he wasn't looking for a repeat the next year.

Voigt after his 2009 Tour de France crash, on the descent of the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard during Stage 16.     Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty

AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, no cyclist likes to abandon the Tour de France. It leaves a terrible taste in your mouth. So, in 2009, when I was still lying in the hospital after my crash with a fractured cheekbone and concussion, I'm like, OK, this is not going to be the end of my Tour de France story. I want to finish with proper honor. Well, I think it was on the 16th stage again this year when my front tire blew up. When you're doing 60 or 70 kilometers per hour, there's not much you can do except think, Ooh, this is going to be bad. And then boomp, you're down. So I'm lying there on the road, everything hurts, but nothing is broken. I have 20 patches of road rash. My arm is bleeding. Blood is running down my elbow to my fingertips and dripping to the ground. It's like some bad horror movie. My bike's front rim is broken. The derailleur has fallen off. The frame is shattered. Then I see everybody coming past. Five riders. Twenty. Thirty riders. Way back I see one guy all alone and I think, Fuck, he's the last rider, and now I am. I'm just here bleeding. Then I start thinking, No, I'm not going to let this happen again. I'm going to make it. There's nothing going to come between Paris and me. But at that moment there was no team car behind me, because they followed Andy Schleck, our captain. So I start saying to the doctor and a policemen nearby, "Hey, guys, I need a bike. Someone get me a bike!" Pretty soon a car pulls up with a spare from the juniors program. It was canary-bird yellow and the size of a little baby mountain goat. It had toe caps. As I'm getting on, the broom wagon stops next to me and the driver looks out like a damn vulture, saying, "Hey, you, want a ride?" I'm like, "No, I've got to go. I've got to make it." After 15 or 20 kilometers, I get my normal spare, which my team director left with a policeman, and eventually I catch the last peloton group. A teammate looks at me and says, "Jens, what the hell happened to you?" I'm bleeding still. My jersey's back is ripped off. But I'm so happy to be in the last group. I just could have kissed every single rider. I was like, Oh, my God, I love you all. It was such a relief knowing we'd make the stage finish. I'm going to be safe and make it to Paris!

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