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.