TV station sorry for causing ugly crash

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Dutch cyclist Johnny Hoogerland had 33 stitches inserted to close deep gashes in his leg after a French TV car forced a serious crash on the ninth stage of the Tour de France, his team said Monday.

See the brutal crash in Stage 9 caused by France Television.

Vacansoleil rider Hoogerland and Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha were part of a five-man breakaway that was vying for victory in Sunday's 130-mile (208-kilometer) stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour in the southern Massif Central region.

However the pair was hit by the overtaking vehicle 22 miles (35 kilometer) from home as the driver apparently swerved to avoid hitting a tree. Hoogerland was sent somersaulting into a barbed wire fence while Flecha hit the road at full speed.

Both riders finished the stage, which was won by Luis Leon Sanchez. Thomas Voeckler followed five seconds behind to claim the overall leader's yellow jersey from Thor Hushovd.

Hoogerland still stepped onto the podium, in tears, to receive the best climber's polka dot jersey. He was later taken to the hospital in Saint-Flour on Sunday night where doctors closed the deep wounds in his leg, AFP reported.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme confirmed the car involved was thrown off the race after failing to follow instructions through the race's official radio channel. The television company involved apologized for the incident.

"France Television apologizes to the riders, the teams and to the ASO (the Amaury Sports Organisation media group) for the accident during the ninth stage of the Tour de France which was caused by a technical assistance vehicle covering the race," said a statement quoted by AFP. "France Television will respect fully the measures which will be taken by the ASO to improve safety."

Cycle through

Review the best images of the 2011 Tour de France as the riders made their way to Paris.

The route across the extinct volcanoes of the Massif Central included eight categorized climbs. The undulating terrain and damp conditions made the roads treacherous and further crashes followed on an already incident-packed Tour.

Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates Jurgen van den Broeck and Frederik Willems hit the road hard with Garmin-Cervelo rider David Zabriskie and were forced to abandon, following Astana leader Alexander Vinokourov out of the race and to a hospital in Aurillac.

Vinokourov was reported to have suffered a fractured femur in his fall, Zabriskie suffered a fractured wrist, Van den Broeck a fractured shoulder blade and Willems a broken collarbone.

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