Bradley Wiggins halts Tour de France stage after sabotage bid
'It was the honourable thing to do,' says race leader after tacks on road cause punctures for 30 riders
BRADLEY WIGGINS retained the leader's Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France after an extraordinary 14th stage that ended with police investigating an alleged attempt to sabotage the race.
Tour director Jean-Francois Pescheux confirmed on Sunday night that he had asked police to open an enquiry into how a number of small metal tacks were strewn across the course during the ascent of the Mur de Peguere, approximately 25 miles from the finish in Foix.
Pescheux told French television that he had no doubt that it was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the race though he conceded it would be "difficult" to identify the culprit because that part of the route was thick with spectators. "There are always some imbeciles," said Pescheux. "What more can I say?"
As many as 30 riders suffered punctures as a result of the tack attack including defending Tour champion Cadel Evans. Wiggins avoided the incident and earned high praise from Pescheux for ordering his Sky Team not to exploit the punctures to their advantage. Instead he and other riders in the Peloton eased up on the descent of the Mur to allow Evans and the others to rejoin them once their tyres had been replaced. "Sky were very sporting, they slowed things down and everything returned to order," said Pescheux.
One rider who didn't observe Tour protocol, however, was Frenchman Pierre Rolland. The winner of Stage 11 launched a solo attack, opening up a two-minute lead before he was gradually reeled in by a chasing pack and given short shrift for his opportunistic assault.
Later Rolland claimed he had been unaware of the chaos caused by the tacks. "I hadn't seen what was happening behind me…when I got back in the peloton, Fränk Schleck came to me asking me why I had gone. I did not understand at first and then I realised that there weren't many riders with the same two wheels. I am respectful of the codes… had I been aware of anything, I would have waited."
The 119-mile stage that began in Limoux was eventually won by Spanish rider Luis Leon Sanchez of the Rabobank Team and Cadel Evans later pointed the finger at Spanish race fans for being behind the sabotage. "This has happened to me before, two times in Spain," explained the Australian. "That's why I don't race in Spain very often. Sorry for the good Spanish people and my Spanish friends and people in Spain who support me but there's a few people that just take things too far."
Wiggins, wearing the leader's yellow jersey for the seventh consecutive day (a record for a British rider in the Tour), said that he'd waited for Evans and the others because "it was the honourable thing to do".
Asked what he thought of the person or persons responsible for strewing the course with tacks, the 32-year-old Briton replied: "It's sad. Those are the type of things we have to put up with as cyclists. I think people take that for granted sometimes, just how close they can get to us. If that happened in a football stadium, or wherever, you'd be arrested… but we're out there, quite vulnerable."
Wiggins remains two minutes and five seconds ahead of Sky team-mate Chris Froome in the overall standings ahead of today's 15th stage from Samatan to Pau. The Tour concludes next Sunday in Paris.