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Bike racing is full of crashes. Some are serious and don’t bring much good. However, there are some crashes that bring about some spectacular performances and add some incredible drama to the race.
Let’s start with a few crashes from the good ol’ Armstrong era from 1999-2006. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about those days so I’ll concentrate them for this post. I’ll add some more as I think of them or get suggestions.
Lance – Mayo Crash
Armstrong crashes close to the finish of the 15th stage of the 2003 Tour de France. His handlebars snagged on a mussette held by a fan causing both him and Iban Mayo to come off. Tyler Hamilton, the good bloke that he is, controls the pace of the leading riders to wait for Armstrong to remount and continue riding. Did Ullrich attack while Armstrong was on the ground as people say? Who knows. Anyway, Armstrong slips out of his right pedal while standing, chest hits stem, bags himself hard on the top tube then regains control. Every man in the world watching hunched over and felt the pain of that one. Luckily Lance immediately got back on his bike and smashed it to win the stage, increasing his lead to over a minute. I’ll never forget the goosbumps while I watched it!
Lance – Beloki Crash
Joseba Beloki crashes out of the 2003 TdF on stage 9 in a high-speed spill with just 4km to go, while Armstrong had to test his cyclo-cross skills when he bounced through a hay field to avoid Beloki. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this. I thought Lance was a god at this point in time. Vinokourov went on to win the stage in a spectical. Is it just me or has every single rider who Lance beat during those years been done for being on the gear? I loved those days…
Jan Ullrich Crash 2001
The Kaiser, oh how I miss him. It’s getting to be a long time ago now but I still remember when Jan Ullrich overshot the corner and went straight over the safety barriers on the descent of the Col du Peyresourde on Stage 13 of the 2001 TdF. Lance waited for Ullrich to get back on and traded pulls with him almost to the finish (before he put the hammer down and dropped him). It was the first act of the gentleman’s rule in cycling that I ever saw: Thou shalt not ride away from a rival when he is on the ground, stopping to relieve himself, or at other unsporting moments. I would have attacked him while he was down…
Jan Ullrich Crash 2003
The final chance for Jan Ullrich to stop Armstrong winning five-in-a-row in 2003. The two rode through in almost identical times until shortly after the second time check at 32.5 km Ullrich fell while taking the curve on a small roundabout. Ullrich’s challenge was over and Armstrong wrapped it up. Phew – got lucky with that one, eh Lance? Can you remember which rider won this stage and was later caught for being on the gear?