Friday, 20 July 2012

Chris Anker Sorensen: Hardman Extraordinaire

Though this Tour de France hasn't exactly been a vintage year for excitement, there's more to the race than just the General Classification. Each year we hear of stories and anecdotes regarding acts of bravery, stupidity, even heroism and this year hasn't been short of these things either. Professional Road Cycling is undoubtedly one of the toughest, most arduous sports on the plannet. It requires a level of dedication, effort and physical ability far beyond most sports and when accidents occur, the dangers are such that these can often be at worst fatal, and at best extremely painful, which means as a rider, you have to be made of pretty tough stuff...

When, in this years Stage 6, half of the Pelton ended up on the floor following a massive crash (which marred the rest of the race, especially the GC) there was skin lost, bones broken and bodies bruised aplenty. We heard how Vacansoleil-DCM rider Wout Poels got back on his bike and rode a further 10km before retiring from the race with incredibly a ruptured spleen and kidney, bruised lungs and three broken ribs. This man got back on his bike and pedalled! It's men like these who make a mockery of world class footballers, stretchered off with swollen ankles and whom dive to the ground with the slightest bodily contact. But this story is far from unique. Its a long held belief that cyclists are hard as nails, stretching back to the Tours beginnings we can find stories like these, riders riding for hours on end through blizzards nursing frostbite, riders, in fact, completeing whole Grand Tours with broken bones.

The above picture shows the remains of Chirs Anker Sorensens hand on yesterdays Stage 17. Sorensen, the attacking rider that he is. had worked hard to get into the days breakaway when at the mid-way point of the stage as newspapers were being handed to riders (they are used as an aid on long, mountainous descents to keep the wind from the riders chests by inserting them down the front of their jerseys) some stray pages found themselves entangled within Sorensen's wheel. Travelling at high speed the Dane leant down in an effort to remove the pages only to catch his fingers in the spokes of the wheel which had much the same effect as putting fingers on an industrial sander. You can see from the amount of blood that it was a particularly nasty incident.

So what did Chris Anker do? Did he stop, get off his bike and call it a day in a fit of agony? Actually no, he stayed seated, dropped back to the medical car, received some bandaging to his hand and continued to ride the remaining 80 kilometres of the race. Unfortunately he lost his place in the days breakaway but managed to roll in with the main bunch a meer 4 minutes down on the days winner, Valverde, who at one moment in the race was filmed looking rather aghast as he studied Sorensens injuries. Let alone get back on a bike, let alone ride the remain 80km, the final climb to the finish was long and steep, the pressure on Sorensens hands to grip the bars as he grinded his way to the top must have been pretty agonising. It wasn't untill later that other riders tweeted that Sorensens bone was visible through his deep wounds. After crossing the finish Sorensen was rushed to a hospital in Toulouse where he underwent an operation to close the wounds and have a skin graft to replace the missing flesh.

Well, after that ordeal, guess who lined up at the start of todays stage all prepped and ready to ride? Yep, Chris Anker Sorensen.   

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