The 2016 Tour de France is now well underway, with participants traveling a distance of 3,535 kilometres between Saturday 2 July and Sunday 24 July 24 2016.
The race has a route made up of 21 stages, beginning at Mont-Saint-Michel and finishing at Champs-Élysées.
- Get up-to-the-minute Tour de France race news from our sister site Cycling News
- Tour de France 2016 bikes, gear and technology
The course this year follows a similar pattern to previous years, following a path of nine flat stages, one hilly stage, nine mountain stages and two time trials.
Happily, this year’s race has so far been relatively free of crashes with fewer riders abandoning, but it’s a tough race, and previous years have seen reports of injuries and crashes leading to riders being forced to pull out of the race. These are some of the worst crashes that have occurred since 2000.
If curiosity gets the better of you, you'll find many of these crashes on YouTube but be warned - they're not pretty.
The Tour itself was temporarily suspended after a significant crash in Stage 3 of the race, between Antwerp and Huy, at the bottom of the Côte de Bohissau. The high-speed, chain-reaction crash, which happened on the flat part of the road, caused 10-15 riders to fall, including yellow jersey holder Fabian Cancellara and Simon Gerrans, Orica-GreenEdge captain.
This led to four cyclists having to abandon their participation in the race, including Cancellara, who had two broken lumbar vertebrae, and was unable to start Stage 4. Officials halted the race, as medical personnel treating the injured were unable to follow the race.
Three days later, in Stage 6, another crash took place on the journey into Le Havre. Time trial World Champion Tony Martin fell with just 1km to go, after touching wheels with a Europcar racer. Martin remounted his bike and finished the stage, but had to drop out after the crash, having broken his collarbone in multiple places and having to undergo surgery in Hamburg.
2014 saw a number of lead-runner crashes, possibly contributed to by the wet weather, not usually typical for the event.
In the famous 2014 Tour de France crash, Omega Pharma Mark Cavendish collided with Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge at the end of Stage 1 in Harrogate. The pair, alongside a Cofidis rider, fell in the last 250 metres of the stage. Cavendish himself took responsibility for the accident, stating in a press release: “In reality, I tried to find a gap that wasn’t really there. I wanted to win today. I felt really strong and was in a great position to contest the sprint.”
Gerrans had scrapes on his back and his hips, but Cavendish dislocated his shoulder and damaged ligaments, and was forced to undergo surgery and drop out of the Tour.
More crashes followed that year, with a total of three falls by defending champion Chris Froome in Stage 4 and 5. Froome, who rode for Team Sky, was one of the Tour’s favourites, but had to pull out from the race due to fractures to his left wrist and right hand.
Also in Stage 5, Lars Bak, riding for Lotto-Belisol, was on a cobblestone surface, and somersaulted over the top of his bike, unhurt. In Stage 10, Alberto Contador, a rider for the Tinkoff-Saxo team, crashed on another rainy day. He received medical attention and attempted to ride a further 20km, before exiting the competition with a fractured tibia.
In the 2013 Tour de France, Jean-Christophe Péraud crashed at the Stage 17 time trial, which covered the Côte de Puy-Sanières and the Côte de Réallon. Péraud had already suffered a fractured collarbone when he had crashed earlier that day, but the second crash forced him to leave the competition.
The same year, Jack Bauer, riding for Team Garmin-Sharp, was involved in a significant accident at Stage 19 of the Tour. The crash took place on the descent of the Col de la Madeleine, where it was understood Bauer came off the road and fell into barbed wire fencing. Bauer was unable to continue the race.
In Stage 6, in the 2012 Tour, a large crash took place involving nearly 100 contestants. White jersey candidate Wout Poels, riding for Vacansoleil-DCM, ended up in an ambulance before getting back out and trying to re-join. He had suffered from three broken bones, bruised lungs, and a ruptured spleen and kidney, and travelled 10K before being forced to drop out of the race.
The 2011 Tour saw a number of large-scale crashes, with varying levels of severity. The first, of many examples to choose from, is Samuel Dumoulin’s crash in the final sprint of Stage 3. The Cofidis cyclist crashed into the barriers on the final corner, and completed a summersault in the process. He nearly ended up back and upright on his bike – and the process interfered with the sprint of Mark Cavendish.
In Stage 9, Johnny Hoogerland crashed spectacularly – due to the involvement of a third party. The Vacansoleil rider had broken away with four other riders 36 kilometres from the finish in Saint-Flour. Another rider, Juan Antonio Flecha from Team Sky, was knocked off his bicycle by a passing France 2 television car, which caused him to knock Hoogerland off his bike. He was thrown into a barbed wire fence, cutting his legs and shorts.
After a promising start, Hoogerland was able to finish the stage, but at 139th. Hoogerland and Flecha both received compensation from France 2’s parent company Euro Media.
In 2010, Lance Armstrong crashed three times in one day, ending his 13th attempt at the Tour de France. The Team RadioShack cyclist struggled up the climbs, and avoided his first spill four miles in.
Then, before the La Ramaz pass, he fell whilst cycling in a group around the roundabout, having clipped his pedal. Armstrong got back on his bike and began to cycle again.
A third time, 12 miles before the end of the race, a rider fell in front of him and he had to jump off his bike again. Armstrong completed the race 12 minutes behind the winner, Andy Schleck from Team CSC.
In 2009, there were a number of high-profile incidents and accidents that took place during the Tour.
During Stage 14, a female spectator was killed, and two others were injured, in the village of Wittelsheim, Colmar. At around 40km into the race, the woman, in her 60s, was hit by a police motorbike when crossing the road after a breakaway group of riders.
Two stages later, on Stage 16, Saxo Bank rider Jens Voigt ended his participation in the Tour on the descent from the col du Petit Saint Bernard towards the finish line.
Voigt hit a bump in the road and appeared to lose his grip on the handlebars before his fall. He was travelling at an estimated 80kph. He had a concussion, and had fractured his right cheekbone.
During Stage 18 of the 2008 Tour de France, Lampre rider Damiano Cunego was forced to pull out of the Tour after his crash. Cunego was 35km into the stage when he crashed into a wall, after his bike was stuck in a gulley. His chest crashed into the wall, he tore his jersey and split his chin. His teammates assisted him in completing the race, but Cunego was unable to begin Stage 19 of the Tour.
The Tour de France in 2007 saw the crash of Mick Roger on Stage 8, with 54km still to go. Roger, who rides for T-Mobile GC, fell on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend, into Bourg-St-Maurice.
A tight left-hand turn caused Roger to fall, although he quickly got back up to race against the six riders up ahead. Roger had to abandon the race with 35 kilometres left in the stage though, due to a dislocated shoulder. An equipment problem was blamed for the fall.
The 2006 Tour saw the fall of Jose Gomez Marchante, of the Saunier Duval–Prodir team, which forced other riders into taking respite, too.
Bobby Julich, of team CSC, also fell at this Tour, on Stage 7. During the time trial, he lost control of his bike, before falling into a curb, breaking his right wrist. Julich was forced to withdraw from the race for that year.
The 21st Stage set the scene for a memorable Tour de France crash. The collision, between Wim Vansevenant (Predictor-Lotto) Carlos Da Cruz (Française des Jeux) and Salvatore Commesso (Lampre), scattered bikes around the scene.
At just 200 metres from the finishing line, Kurt-Asle Arvesen (CSC) and Jimmy Casper (Cofidis) crashed in the sprint Stage 2 of the Tour de France. The stage was between Charleroi and Namur, which was won by Robbie McEwen from team Lotto Domo.
In the 2003 Tour, Lance Armstrong avoided a crash with Joseba Beloki of beNorse. Cycling for US Postal Service at the time, Armstrong swerved off-road and into a meadow to avoid a collision. He promptly cut through a meadow and re-joined the race.
2003 was a hard year for Armstrong in terms of crashes. His handlebars got caught in something, and he fell, causing the rider behind him to fall. Jan Ullrich, from Team Bianchi, was the leader at this point, but followed the informal rules of the Tour de France sportsmanship and didn’t attempt to gain a lead on Armstrong when he was down. The eventual outcome was that Armstrong won the stage, and the Tour that year.
Stage 7 of the 2002 Tour saw many crashes in the last remaining kilometres of the stage. Some of the cyclists involved included Emmanuel Magnien (Europcar), Oscar Freire (Mapei–Quick-Step) and Luciano Pagliarini (Lampre).
In the 2001 tour, Jan Ullrich fell during the descent down the Col de Peyresourde. This took place during Stage 13, when the Team Telekom cyclist mistook a corner and headed down the barrier. In a move that would be echoed by Ullrich two years later, Armstrong waited for Ullrich to get back on his bike before continuing the race.
During the 2000 Tour, a number of collisions and crashes took place. Roberto Heras, cycling for Kelme, rode into the barriers in Stage 16, taking a fall. Stage 16 was the site of another crash, when Frederic Guesdon of the La Francaise des Jeux collided with a deer. Guesdon was unharmed. Guesdon also crashed in the Tour’s Stage 8.
This article was provided to us by Leisure Lakes Bikes, family run since 1981.