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Flung into a barbed wire fence while clipped by a French television car during the 2011 Tour de France, suffering physical injury and psychological distress and losing out on what was a possible stage win, Johnny Hoogerland has said that he is finally able to put the matter behind him.
The Dutch rider, who has not reached the same level since then, has settled a long battle for compensation and has reached and agreement with the insurance company involved, AIG.
“It has taken a long time, but I’m glad it’s all over,” Hoogerland told Helden Online. “I understand that insurance issues often take much longer. It does not matter, it’s fixed now.”
Hoogerland was clear with Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Sandy Casar (FDJ) on the ninth stage of the race, a 208 kilometre trek from Issoire to Saint-Flour.
All five looked to be in with a chance of the stage victory, but two of the quintet went down like skittles when they were hit by a France 2 TV car which tried to pass with 36 kilometres to go. The car drove partially on the grass verge, but swerved back onto the road to avoid a tree stump.
That manoeuvre saw it clash with Flecha, who was sent flying into Hoogerland. The latter was hurled sideways and ended up having his shorts shredded and flesh punctured by a barbed wire fence.
The other three continued on, with Sanchez winning the stage and Voeckler taking the yellow jersey and going on to an eventual fourth overall.
Hoogerland had some consolation when he took the King of the Mountains jersey at the finish, thanks to his first place on four of the stage’s eight climbs, but he was below par for the rest of the Tour.
At the time he told VeloNews that he would be ‘marked for the rest of my life.’
Flecha was later awarded €10,000 by a criminal court which ruled against the driver, Adrien Hillairet, but the Spaniard said that he was going to fight the decision. He argued the compensation amount was too low, given that he could have fought for the stage win and also ridden more strongly in the remainder of the Tour had he not been injured.
He would have received €8,000 from Tour organisers ASO had he won the stage, but would likely have received multiples more in bonuses and criterium appearance fees. His contract price would likely also have risen had he taken the stage.
Ditto for Hoogerland, who was also dissatisfied. While France 2’s parent company Euro Media also offered Flecha €28,000 to settle out of court – an amount the Spaniard said he’d fight, as he felt it was too low – Hoogerland was reportedly not offered anything.
His manager Aart Vierhouten told the NRC Handelsblad newspaper that the situation was completely unacceptable as the rider lost out on the chance to win the stage, but also the prospect of taking final victory in the King of the Mountains competition. He said that either of these would have given him a higher salary in subsequent years.
Hoogerland was also hit by a car in February 2013 and spent two weeks in hospital. He suffered several broken ribs, fractured vertebrae, a bruised liver and some internal bleeding.
He feels that a difficult period of his life has now ended, with the insurance payout helping him to turn the page.
“You know that money does not interest me,” he told Helden Online. “I’m just glad that I can draw a line under it.” He said that the issue dragging on led to questions from people or the media about what was happening. “So I was subconsciously thinking about the case. That is now happily finished.”
He added that he hoped people will let the matter go now. He said that some seem to take a bizarre interest in dragging things up. “People call things like, ‘Hey, here’s no barbed wire, you know.’ [I’ve] no idea why they do that. I have said often enough that I’m getting a little tired of it, but people seem to find it fun to always start over. Usually I just do not respond to it.”
He’s now concentrating in getting on with his career. Hoogerland had a quiet season with the Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela team, explaining it in part due to a difficulty in settling in due to the language barrier. He will now move to the new Roompot Orange Cycling setup, a Pro Continental squad set up by Michael Zijlaard, Erik Breukink, Michael Boogerd and Jean-Paul van Poppel.
The 31 year old said that he can learn a lot from those and that he is psyched for 2015. “I’m just very motivated for next season. I am really looking forward to ride fast and do well for myself and the team in the spring.”