Tuesday, July 21, 2009

71 Was It Jens Voigt's Steerer Tube? [NOPE]

Photo Courtesy : Graham Watson

Rumors are flying out left and right that the certain "something in the road" that caused Jens Voigt to crash on the final descent in today's stage was infact not on the road but on his bike. His steerer tube snapped or so, it seems. I have no clue. Now I have immense respect for Jens as a bike rider and like many around the world, was absolutely horrified at the crash. According to some of the official doctors at the Tour, his main injuries seem to be mostly all around the face. We can't tell for sure what he's broken until the scan results come out from Grenoble, but suffice to say - Jens' Tour is over. Let's focus a moment on what happened to the bike, if that's what caused this mess. Does anyone have any clue? Feed any information you have here. We'd all appreciate it. Any of you in France at the moment? Bonjour!

Here's a video, magnified and played in slow-motion courtesy of Sporza. Seeing this makes you doubt that this crash had anything to do with a bike failure. Just keep your focus on the back wheel and then onto Jens' left hand. Check out how he changes his hand position from the hoods to the drops at precisely the wrong time, when the bike had that short 'bounce'. The time frame of importance is between 0:12-0:18 secs.

3 collective observations from me and people who commented :

1) A distinct 'bounce' of the bike as he rides over two different road surfaces, one possibly old and one new. The bike slides out a fraction of a second after this road demarcation, as it comes over the white road surface marking. Whether the white marking was slippery due to motor oil or wet paint is debatable and not factual at this point. The crash happened on the descent near La Rosière and the weather in these alpine areas do get wet. For example, there's a 40% chance of rain at noon there on Wed, July 22.

2) His left hand momentarily lost contact with the handlebars and his body bounced away from the saddle thus losing two critical points of body-bike contact. How often can you stand on a bike with simply a right hand on the drops?

3) I suspect his right hand, which we cannot see, exerted a force on the bars causing the wheel to turn leftward and completely slide out. I think what Jens was trying to do when the bike bounced was to get to the drops as soon as possible to bring the bike to stability. It didn't happen the way he wanted it.


The most clear picture of the bike's front end yet. Thanks to Luc and others for the pic. Handlebars are intact. Steerer tube ok, yes because the wheel and fork are still attached. Jens does not look good. Right cheekbone fracture and concussion. But no other fatal injuries. Jens is going to love it when he gets up from that hospital bed and reads this.

* * *


  1. I'm positive something snappedd. You don't just go down like that in a fraction of a second.

  2. I thought maybe he rolled a tubular off the rim, but examining the video, it does appear his steerer snapped. He would've been riding a specialized, but the stem/bars would not have been stock.

  3. Anonymous3:07 PM

    The handlebars appear oblique in the first video - see 0:00 secs. Not sure if this is from the camera error or video quality...it does seem like something went wrong at the front end.

  4. Observe his awkward position of his left hand hand as he slid out. I wouldn't be surprised if he broke a collarbone or smashed his shoulder. That motorbike behind him really did stop quick...it was a great effort from them because they could have even ran over Jens' bike and his leg. Poor Jens..I really hope nothing serious happened to him. One of the most fantastic riders in the peleton, certainly unique in every way. :(

  5. i thought it may have been something in road, a raised section or something u know. But now the question is ..if 5 other riders could get over it, why not him?

  6. @Anon 3:07 : Switch to the second video at 0:07secs. Still it there. The handlebars look sort of in its position to me. The camera angle is indeed deceiving. There's no other footage of it..since ofcourse, this was a high speed descent with only one left hand angle possible.

  7. Anonymous3:25 PM

    Doesn't look like a bike failure to me. The bars and wheel are clearly still aligned in the second video. Tire still intact. Looks like he hit a depression in the road unexpectedly and lost control. Too bad for Jens, nice guy...

  8. Ron, I happened to have crossed your video on youtube before you posted on your blog. I was waiting for you to say something about it then...

    If you take a look, just before the motorcycle on the other side of Jens pass him, you can see something jumping around before going off road. I thought it was part of his handlebar but looking at the pictures his handlebar is still intact.

    The news said that the doctors at the hospital said he's moving his arms and legs but (at the time of the report) were not sure of the damages until future prognosis.

    Sucks what happened to him, just another proof that cycling ain't no sissy sport, no matter what anyone says.

  9. @Anon 3:25pm : Yes I think so too. I got a better video from Sporza...it looks like he did hit a bump or a depression or something and lost control. Could happen to anyone.

    Zach : Yeah I'm pretty shocked but I want to put this to rest. If there was something wrong with that bike, we're gonna hammer them.

  10. Ghostsprocket133:42 PM

    Seemed more like a bump. You see his rear wheel bounced for a moment there just before he went down. It was in the air.

  11. Anonymous3:55 PM

    Boy you really sensationalized this one. In the thick of the moment, as they say it ;) By the way, I too hope to hear of Jens' recovery. For sure, no more racing for him for a while. Its sad that he did so much work today and had to make his exit like this. Complete respect.

  12. Kathy3:59 PM

    THANK YOU for removing the second video... I love Jens Voigt but don't want to see bloody images of his. Oh man, this is really sad. :(

  13. Anonymous4:01 PM

    His back wheel is in the air for some time before the crash - Jens is a big chap and you can just see him go for the drops from the hoods...at that point the back wheel is still in the air and even the slightest movement on the bars would flick the bike...freak accident...hope hes back on the bike soon...top bloke...Neil.

  14. @ ZACH : I did not see anything jumping and going offroad. You maybe referring to his sunglasses that popped and fly off to the right?

  15. @Anon 4:01pm : Did you also notice? He slid right when he approached that painted white line on the road. Hmm...

  16. Kyrill4:13 PM

    I saw some stills where his helmet lay by the side. Apparently from looking at the underside, no damage. He possibly took the hit right on his face, but braced himself in a way so he would smash his head against the road.

  17. Guys, news has it that Jens is talking. He doesn't remember the crash. But he's talking.

  18. Anonymous4:21 PM

    In the words of Sully Sullenberger : "Brace For Impact."

  19. Brian, UK4:27 PM

    If his collarbone broke, why is it not being braced by the supporting man in the pic? Or is Jens trying to resist the pain when indeed his collarbone broke?

  20. I don't think it was equipment failure at all.

    In slow motion he hit a big bump (not uncommon) and seemed to be changing grip and lost hold of the guidon.

    He's a personal hero .... hope he gets better soon.

  21. Will : Good to have you back here, commenting. Boy oh' boy, still remember the crash you had not long ago.Remember this one? Very similar to Jens' crash today..also on the face and nose. Just curious what did the doctors do to you? How soon did it heal, I guess that's what I'm asking.

  22. Anonymous4:54 PM

    Looking at the second video (the one in slow motion), watch the rider just in front of Jens - his bike seems to ride over something in the road. As Jens passes the same spot, his bike also hops a bit but his left hand seems to slip from the handlebars as he hits whatever was in the road.

    They're in a slight right turn and leaned over that way, if his left hand slipped on the bars, there would be nothing supporting his front wheel when it landed back on the ground after hitting something.

    IMHO, I don't think this was component failure.

    Our prayers are with you Jens.

  23. Btw Will : I too am a little suspicious at the bike failure story but tweets are going out left and right that his stem detached and failed. Some talk about a steerer tube failure. I wonder where they're getting all this from.

  24. Now judging by the video and the comments here, I have to chime in that on occasions in the past, I came near to total washout because my front wheel ran over a sizable stone on the road. When you're at high speed and about to turn like Jens in that video, and if you do encounter something like what I described earlier, a string of events could lead to a loss of control and subsequent crash. Now I wonder whether turning down the tire pressure a notch would help, as it would try and envelope the stone or rock on the road better than a flat out solid tire pumped to say, 120 psi or something ridiculous. What do you think?

  25. John : I'm playing the video again and again. The area made up of the intersection of the white line and that distinct demarcation on the road (the "bump") is where Jens went down. We can observe that he had just gotten off the saddle to go with the acceleration in the front when this happened. Its likely that the wheel did encounter something and that made the wheel slip out.

    Now let's also not forget that this descent is LONG. A few other footage videos show riders shaking their arms in pain due to cramps. Could arm fatigue coupled with a momentary loss in concentration have led to the crash? It is very likely.

  26. His steering wheel did not snap. I guess the front wheel slipped on the white line while landing.

    Check image where cross-bar is intact.

  27. I had a really similar accident recently... don't remember it, but I know it was longitudinal a crack in the road at a right hand turn. 35mph with similar carnage, facial fractures, a few hours of memory loss, two busted arms. The guy behind me said I had a little "front wheel wobble" then jut got thrown down. My front wheel turned 90 degrees though. Lucky Jens didn't have the full wheel turn, at that speed he might not be alive. FREAKY!!!

  28. The cockpit looks quite intact in this photo form after the crash:

  29. Thanks a bunch guys. Rumor busted I guess. This wasn't a bike failure. Give the riders a break.. you have a lot of tired bodies after 2-3 weeks of racing.

  30. Anonymous5:54 PM

    Ahh the irony of modern mass communication. Twitter and Youtube were the ones that spread rumors such as today about Jens' bike. The same media also dispells the correct facts, if you just know where to look :)

  31. Hey Ron,

    To your question, my nose was just a hairline break .... no worries .... the ribs .... were awful for a few weeks but time heals.

    No .... I don't believe the failure. And have seen some reliable tweets that was bump + losing grip .... which is what I saw. Those roads can be bumpy .

    PS - look for me on Colombiere tomorrow ;)


  32. just heard the bad news - hes always been one of my favourite riders, looks like he white lined - the alpine roads are very abrasive so the tyres may have been scrubbed on a lock up and the grip was tenuous, wishing you a speeddy recovery

  33. The problem with many people on twitter is that they are wannabe journalists.
    Key factor in good journalism is using FACTS. Not make things up!
    Who ever yelled about the cross-bar being broken in the first place doesn't matter anymore.
    Fact is that a news site and other dutch media copied the information! Now that is something to be ashamed of.
    Website nu.nl still reports it was due to a broken cross-bar!

  34. Luc : That is unfortunate that there is rumors flying about. I came to this piece of news with a question, you know, did it break because I saw around 10-15 sources saying it WAS a breakage.

    I don't do twitter, but I know my blog is powerful, so if it can help retrieve facts from people around the world, then I'm all for it. I was pretty suspicious of this being a bike failure from the beginning. But I see your point...such rumors bring the sponsors of the team a bad name (bike company) and it can also keep the families of the victims guessing, and bring them more anxiety. Twitter has advantages and disadvantages. You know, Twitter has gotten so powerful that I think the people who run the company must do something to ensure rumors don't get viral...they should have some kind of "FACT CHECKING" algorithm in place. I don't know how it will work but in this day and age, programmers can do brilliant things.

  35. I disagree on that one.
    I think respected journalists should CHECK information. Not just copy it. People on twitter are like people in the bar! They do gossip!
    Keep that in mind.

    Check the facts! It's been a golden rule for journalist since many years.
    Just in this new fast world most of them seem to forget the rule.

  36. Luc : Right. Check the facts. :) But if you have 20 sources, all fake, all saying the same thing, you can't really cross check. Let's not forget Twitter's journalistic flaws during the Iranian demonstrations, or the attack on Mumbai's hotels, or rumors of Steve Job's health condition. People can literally bring countries and stock market prices down on their knees with fake news. Boy, I don't know how that's like... I know I'm going to stay away from this Twitter thing for as long as I can. Will watch it from a safe distance. Where are you from? Europe?

  37. Anonymous7:01 PM

    looks just like beloki in 03. i'm thinking he just hit a bump, tried to correct, but at that speed over steered.

  38. DrJazzz7:03 PM

    The bike was fine, there are two factors for this crash

    1) the 'bump' is the transition between a newer and older road surface - you can see the line clearly and the rider in front going over it

    2) his left hand was off the handlebars while he went over it

  39. Anonymous7:25 PM

    It's so clear what happened....look! His wheel slid -probably on oil from a motorbike or car- as soon as it touched the middle white line. It SLID along the line. That's not a result of a bump or hole etc, it's oil, or something slippery.

    Get well soon Jens, you're a legend!

  40. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Nothing broke, ya bunch of conspiracy theorists.

    Go back and watch 1993 worlds, rainy with tons of wet paint stripes causing crashes everywhere, that look just like that.

  41. Javhar8:23 PM

    I too think that this is not an equipment failure, but the result of Jens changing grip just as he goes over that bump in the road. When he lands his left hand is off the handlebars, which makes the right handlebar shoot forward, so the front wheel turns left and disappears from under him.

  42. Your analysis very good. UHe lost control of front part of bike. Simple matter.

  43. One thing no one has mentioned. It looks like there's a spray of ceramic bearings across the road as his rear wheel twists off the frame.

    I think that either the rear hub failed, or possibly the bottom bracket/cranks, causing his balance to be suddenly changed.

    The rear wheel loses contact with the road BEFORE the change in surface, so it's not just that.

  44. Anonymous11:28 PM

    "Spray of ceramic bearings"?
    I think you are using the mythical image enhancements from CSI Miami...
    Watch the slo-mo carefully and it appears that Jens trys to switch his left hand to the drops and misses. (You see his hand move below the drop, come back up a little, then back down as he tries to find his grip before the change in road surface)
    He tries again just as he hits the bump, the momentary jolt forces him forward and since his right hand is the only one on the bar the front wheel steers to the left "tripping" the bike

  45. Chef Mattrock : I did notice the spray of "white" glistening particles as he went down. We need to see an HD replay of this and there are a couple on Youtube.

    I can't pin point what it is but it may be even be the paint off his bike's top tube (bike was a white Specialized), or the anodized covering ripping off in little pieces off his external bottom bracket when it hit the ground (did he have an external oversized bottom bracket?) The force of impact was enough to let a couple of things loose so I'm not surprised.

  46. Sorry I do not think they're bearings coming off loose from the wheel hubs. Paint is more likely.

  47. Ok that's it. Jens is going to kill us all with frustration after reading this. We sure have taken this overboard. I'm out of here!

  48. Kevin Mahoney12:06 AM

    You guys are brilliant.

  49. Anonymous12:12 AM

    Definitely looks like a bump in the road and moving hand at the worst possible time. Great video work to show the rear wheel bounce!

    To answer BrianUK's question about why they weren't holding his shoulder, in any situation where a cerebral-spinal injury is suspected or known, you keep the head and neck still until the patient is on a backboard.

    Considering how bad the crash was, he seems pretty lucky. I wish him a speedy recovery!

  50. Anonymous12:29 AM

    Get real people. Crashes happen all the time. Face it. Its bike racing. This much analysis???

  51. Richard12:42 AM

    Let's not forget yesterday was the longest solar eclipse of the century. Maybe Jens' stars didn't align out right.

  52. When I first saw the crash on tv I thought the spray of little white things were teeth. Paint or even bearings seem like a better bet.

  53. @Ron & @DrJazzz

    There is no transition between old and new road surface. The road surfaces would be of different shade and the riders likely would have anticipated it beforehand.

    What we have here is likely a gutter going accross the road under the asphalt that has "risen" because of yearly freezing/unfreezing cycle creating a slight bump that is very hard to see in bright sunlight. Look at the white line between the lanes right next to Jens voight. You can see how it makes a slight bump just before Jens loses control.

  54. Anonymous2:43 AM

    Please excuse me, but in Graham Watson photo, why is Jens holding his "front end"?

  55. Very sad indeed!

  56. Anonymous10:36 AM

    It looks like his left hand misses the drop as he's changing positions. A heavy load results on the right side of the handlebars and he goes down. No signs of mechanical failure. I'm a long-time voigt fan - get well soon Jens!

  57. I'm quite sure his front wheel slipped on the painted line. Focus on the front wheel and notice how it slips exactly as he crosses the line and then continues to slide down the painted line following the lowest co-efficient of friction. His hand movement at precisely the wrong time may have may have exasperated the front tires tendency to slip. Once your front wheel looses rotation your down. That's why the guy falls/looses control who hits your wheel wheel from behind.

  58. DrJazzz11:42 AM

    from asb: "There is no transition between old and new road surface. The road surfaces would be of different shade and the riders likely would have anticipated it beforehand."

    The road surfaces are of different shade, this is clearly visible. It's a transition from newer to older so I think there was a drop rather than a bump. Maybe Jens wasn't concentrating fully having just finished a climb.

  59. One of the worst spills I have seen. Jens is a superior rider but it only takes a simple mistake with the wrong timing. He hit a bump....he was changing hand positions.....for a split second he did not have complete control. It has happened to me also and most bike riders. I hope he recovers soon.

  60. Marty1:15 PM

    What a fantastic blog. I get in here through Youtube. This is a keeper!

  61. Anonymous1:54 PM

    At 0:15 of the video the rear wheel is in the air, while the front tire is still well away from the white line. What caused the rear wheel to lift? Could that be a rim or tire failure that grabbed the brake?

    It is highly unlikely to roll a tire there, on such a gentle turn.

    At 0:16 the front tire crosses the white line and at 0:17 you see the sudden flick of the bike to the right.

    I don't think the slippery paint theory holds water. I do agree the after shot takes the steerer out of suspicion. However, I think the key is in what lifted that rear wheel.

    Oh, and the white things are not teeth or paint chips, they are sparks from titanium. Likely the rear derailleur bolt and/or QR skewer.

    God speed in your recovery, Jens.

  62. Anonymous3:33 PM

    What a horrific crash... Watch the other riders, all the bikes seem to "hop" a little as they pass the same point. Perhaps seeing this, Jens appeared to be changing his grip. His front tire made contact with the white line of paint once crossing this point, you can see the paint take the wheel and allow it to slide. Bad timing and position unfortunately as I think his weight wasnt distributed on the bars evenly. Just hope Jens makes a full recovery.
    Canadian Tour Fan

  63. Anonymous11:32 PM

    "However, I think the key is in what lifted that rear wheel. "

    on cars when for example the right rear wheel or suspension raises up it's almost always a problem cross-diagonally from that , so in this case front left suspension failure.

    So let's assume his right hand-arm is the suspension and his moving his hand down at the wrong time led to the rear wheel lifting up and the crash.

  64. Anonymous11:39 PM

    correction his left hand0arm

  65. Why is everyone refuting wet roads theory? Didn't Kenny Van Hummel abandon the race because he crashed on Stage 17? Roads were wet then.

  66. Anonymous5:58 AM

    The bump was well before he started slipping. But the bump disturbed his timing on changing his left hand grip, so when he came onto the white strip, he had only his right hand on the handle. White strip, less traction, front wheel slips left, trip. Simple as that.

  67. Anonymous1:33 PM

    If you look closely at 0:15 you can see a 2nd gunman on the grassy knoll!

  68. Thank you all guys. You all have put in good insight into this crash.

    I'm sorry the video is not working any longer. ASO came out in fine fashion and had it removed from Youtube. Youtube then ahead and banned my account as well, as a gift. SIGH.

  69. Anonymous2:34 PM

    He simply didn't have enough points of contact. For example, 2 hands + 2 feet + butt on seat = 5 points of contact. You really need 4 points at all times to be in control. He was probably switching hand positions, hits the bump, butt comes off the seat while only one hand on bar, now he has only 3 points of contact, tough to recover from on its own, then he grazes against the white line edge. Speed + gravity did the rest.

    We hope you recover soon!

  70. I have done what he did, but i was lucky and didnt hit my face and didnt break anything.
    Hit unexpected bump, hands slip off bars, rear wheel hits bump, and you totally lose control and are planted into the ground. It happens really quick and it hurts.
    Thats it. His hands slipped off. Nothing broke.

  71. Anonymous3:23 AM

    Looks like it's a wheel slip while crossing the road divider. If there's too much paint on the road divider then there's less friction and he's left hand wasn't on the handlebar just a moment before the slip.


Thank you. I read every single comment.