Chasing The Tour | Stage 14 – Les Saboteurs!
Today’s stage was filled with drama, sabotage, sportsmanship, and victory. After the first hour of attempts an eleven-man breakaway emerged nearly 50km into the race which included some big names like Gilbert, Sagan, and Sanchez. They gained a massive lead of 13’30” by the intermediate sprint and by the time Sanchez crossed the finishline in first place the main bunch were still 18’15” behind.
However, Sanchez’s fourth annual Tour stage victory was overshadowed by the news that was making all the headlines. Tacks that were thrown onto the road by fans 200m from the summit of the Mur de Peguere climb, 38km from the finish which resulted in around thirty punctures including many vehicles. The first rider everyone noticed with problems was Cadel on the summit when he needed to wait for what seemed like eternity for a wheelchange reminiscent of stage 13 in the 2009 Vuelta. Another BMC rider came by and swapped wheels but it seemed strange that Cadel needed to change his wheel straight away which made it seem like a mechanical issue. Quickly after the television cut to Jim Ochowicz giving Cadel a clumsy wheelchange and falling into the ditch (does it make me a bad person for laughing out loud at that?). However, it was soon realised that tacks had been laid on the road and riders were puncturing everywhere because of it. Many riders including Levi Leipheimer hit the ground and Robert Kiserlovski of Astana crashed on the descent and had to abandon the race due to a suspected collarbone fracture. It turned out to be no laughing matter with how dangerous this could have been.
After the race I spoke with a moto photographer who was in-between the escape bunch and the peloton. The tacks were probably dropped just moments after the Gendarmerie who where leading the main peloton passed near the summit of the Mur de Peguere. Numerous motorbikes within the peloton punctured as did a few team cars, but none of the photographer’s motos who were just ahead had any problems. The road was packed with fans and it would be surprising if nobody saw anything, but it’s doubtful he/they will be caught.
It’s good to know that sportsmanship still exists and the unwritten rules of the peloton are respected. Team SKY knew there was a problem with the riders behind and they sat up and waited for the bunch to regroup. Bradley Wiggins said in the press conference, “I just thought it was the honourable thing to do, no one wants to benefit from someone else’s misfortune.” To add to the chaos Pierre Rolland didn’t get the message however and he attacked the front of the peloton which sparked a reaction from Liquigas and Lotto Belisol as he threatened their GC position.
The ones who I really feel sorry for at this moment are the team mechanics gluing on dozens of tubulars at 1am.
Stage 14 Photos
Stage 15 Preview