Bradley Wiggins slows stage 14 amid sabotage

The 14th stage of the Tour de France was marred by a series of punctures, caused by tacks thrown on to the road, on the final climb of the day.  Race leader Bradley Wiggins temporarily called a halt to competitive racing after defending champion Cadel Evans was among those to suffer a puncture showing another example of how cycling is often a more gentlemanly sport than many others.  Wiggins, who still leads by more than two minutes, slowed the pace to allow Evans to return to the group.

The day’s drama unfolded back at the summit of the Mur de Peguere, a Pyreneean mountain which was making its debut as a climb in the Tour.  Race official Jean-Francois Pescheux confirmed:

The nails were mainly thrown on the ground around 200m from the summit.  It was obviously done on purpose. We have the tacks but we don’t know who spread them. They are imbeciles.  Sky showed they are for fair play.  They saw that something had happened and they slowed the peloton so that things could come together for the ride to the finish.

Tour etiquette dictates that rivals do not take advantage of another rider’s misfortune and, as soon as he realised what was happening, Team Sky’s lead rider called for a truce.  “I thought it was the honourable thing to do,” said 32-year-old Wiggins who is aiming to become the first British rider to win the race. “Nobody wants to benefit from someone else’s misfortune.”  Wiggins sportingly decided that, seeing as there was no car on hand to help his rival, it would be unfair for him to take advantage of his misfortune.

Wiggins, Froome, Evans and Vincenzo Nibali, the four riders in contention to win this year’s race, all reached the summit together but BMC rider Evans immediately jumped off his bike and removed his damaged back wheel.

However, the Australian’s support car was struggling to get up the narrow mountain road which was lined with thousands of spectators and his first team-mate who could offer support, Britain’s Steven Cummings, also had a rear wheel puncture.  Evans waited for more than one minute for assistance and then suffered two more punctures on the descent.

George Hincapie, Evans’s BMC team-mate, who is riding in a record 17th Tour de France, said: “There was something on the road. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Any thoughts that Evans would lose significant time in the race though were tempered by the actions of Wiggins, who also had to change his own bike on the descent, although it is unclear whether he too suffered a puncture.  Evans acknowledged the sportsmanship of Wiggins as the peloton crossed the line more than 18 minutes after race winner Sanchez.

Books I have read: It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life

Whilst spending more time on my bike recently, I re-read It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong.  Many people who’ve read the book complain that it doesn’t tell you enough about his training regime, or his amazing achievements as an athlete, but I don’t think that is the point of this book.  First and formost this is about his fight for life, and the people who helped him so much during his battle.

A particularly moving part is when Lance is feeling depressed & sorry for himself, and probably in need of a kick in the pants, and the hospital engineers a visit to the children’s cancer ward, where Lance discovers children younger than 10 who were optimistic and determined to beat this thing, and it became a real turning point for him.

I should imagine it is very inspiring for a cancer sufferer (of which I’m extremely thankful I’m not).  This disease is no respector of age, class, creed, money or power, it can & will strike at any time.   Frightening, but Armstrong’s story shows that even those given little chance of survival, as he was (less than 20%), can & do recover.  And what a recovery. The ultimate athlete in the ultimate test of athletic ability.

Books I have read: One More Kilometre and We’re in the Showers

Whilst on holiday I saw a copy of One More Kilometre and We’re in the Showers by Tim Hilton in a charity bookshop.  I thought this would be an interesting book looking at the life of a seasoned 60 year old racing cyclist.  The book describes how Tim was brought up in a Midlands Communist party household and cycling being part of his escape to all sorts of places and people. He then goes on to cover the history of club cycling in Britain – the racers, races and politics / organisations; and the history and characters of the classic races in Europe.

At times I felt it got a little too dense, and a bit too pretentious, focussing on the golden time of cycling, and very dismissive of the modern versions of races such as the Tour de France.

If you’re a keen cyclist it’s worth a read, but otherwise I’d suggest giving it a miss.