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Tic tack toe the line at Tour de France
Jul 16th, 12. A Tour de France spectator sabotaged the race today but Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins saved the carnage on the results sheet after realising the defending champion was one of the worst affected.
Just before the top of the second Cat 1 climb with 38km left of Stage 14, behind the day's successful breakaway a series of punctures affected riders, team cars and police motorbikes alike.
Tour de France competition director, Jean-François Pescheux later claimed it was a case of sabotage. He said there were about 30 riders with punctures, some with multiple nails in their tyres.
From all accounts, a box of carpet style tacks was thrown on the tarmac near the summit of the narrow one lane road of the Mur de Péguère (9.3km, 7.9% average gradient).
The first rider who looked to be affected was BMC leader Cadel Evans. The defending champion, 4th on GC, lost almost 2min to the other GC leaders as he waited on the climb summit for a replacement wheel.
The first of his teammates to reach him, Steven Cummings, also had a puncture from the tacks, leaving his wheel useless to his leader.
Evans had his rear wheel out for what seemed like an eternity before he was able to get back on the road again thanks to a swap with another teammate - only to suffer a further two punctures on the descent.
Fortunately, by then Wiggins, in the yellow jersey, had been made aware of the situation and he signalled a truce in his group that contained about 15 of the Top GC riders.;
(The Team Sky leader was to suffer his own puncture later too.)
After a great chase thanks to his BMC teammates George Hincapie, Michael Schär, Marcus Burghard and Amaël Moinard, Evans was eventually back in touch with the main bunch.
Wiggins, " It seemed the honourable thing to do"Afterwards Wiggins said of the day's big talking point, "No one wants to see something like that have an impact on the race. As a group the thing to do was to wait, the stage win was over. The climb was over. There was nothing left to contest really.
"Everybody sees those situations differently but personally I wouldn't want to benefit from something like that. I thought the best thing to do is to wait," he said on TeamSky.com
"If you can't gain times on the climbs, then you don't do it when someone's punctured - not even when it's an ordinary puncture. So when it was something like what happened today, something external affecting the race, then it's even more so.
"There were so many punctures at once that it was obvious that something had happened. The climb was so narrow that the team cars were a long way back and waiting seemed the honourable thing to do."
Rolland attacks, claims he did not know the issue
While those behind sorted out their punctures, everyone else but Europcar's Pierre Rolland took Wiggins' lead and chose to wait for the defending champion who was struck with misfortune through no fault of his own.
Rolland's team later said the 25 year old did not know the reason for the chaos behind him.
"I wanted to attack on the Mur de Peguere to take back some time on the GC," said the Stage 11 winner on his team website. "People have reproached me for having attacked on the descent but I didn't know about the mechanical problems behind me - my earpiece was not working. I am not the type of rider who likes to benefit from other people's misfortunes to gain places in the GC."
With their own GC hopes under threat from Rolland's attack, Lotto Belisol and Liquigas were relunctant to sit in with Team Sky too long, and they ended up taking off in pursuit of Rolland.
By the time Evans was safely back in the the group - the Australian said thanks to those who showed such good sportsmanship - Rolland and his chasers had eased off the pace and the race came back together for the run to the finish line.
Not all as fortunate as Evans
Unfortunately for Astana's Robert Kieserlovski, he was not so lucky.
A related crash on the descent ended the Stage 12 Most Aggressive Rider's Tour de France with a broken collarbone.
His teammate Jani Brajkovic had a flat tyre (presumably from the tacks) and Kiserlovski was involved in a collision when he stopped to give him his wheel.
Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma Quickstep) crashed into Kieserlovski but, although bloodied, the American was able to continue.
"Kieserlovski moved from left to right to give him his wheel and I couldn't avoid the collision. I hit him and I crashed. I feel bad for him, but it was an accident," the American, who has some deep cuts and bruises on his right hip, knee and elbow, said.
Ahead of the chaos, Sanchez enjoyed a solo win
Ahead of the tack incident, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) was the victor from the day's breakaway group. He stole off the front with 11km left to ride and enjoyed a great solo run to the finish line finishing 47sec ahead of his previous companions.
Peter Sagan (Liquigas) consolidated his lead in the green jersey competition by instigating the break, taking top honours at the intermediate sprint and ending the day 2nd on the stage.
The 22 year old, heralded a Tour de France champion of the future, now leads Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) by an incredible 97 points in the Points Classification.
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