Sanchez Wins Sabotage-Marred Stage of 2012 Tour de France
Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) has won Stage 14 of the Tour de France.
Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) has won Stage 14 of the Tour de France. Sanchez soloed away from four breakaway companions to win the rugged, 191-km ride from Limoux to Foix in 4:50:29. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) outsprinted Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) for second at 0:47. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) remains the maillot jaune.
It took some time for the break du jour to form. Only at 50 km did Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sebastien Minard (Ag2r-Le Mondiale), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Sandy Casar (FDJ-Big Mat), Sergio Paulinho (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Steven Kruijswijk and Sanchez (both from Rabobank), and Martin Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) sally off of the front. When the break formed, however, the peloton made no effort to chase, and the lead ballooned to more than 18 minutes by the end of the stage.
The stage was uneventful as bunch and break breasted the first of the day's two Category 1 ascents, the Port de Lers. On the second such climb, the Mur de Peguere, all hell broke loose.
Cadel Evans (BMC) moved toward the front of the groupe maillot jaune when he punctured. The defending champion called to teammate Tejay van Garderen, but the American kept going because he notice that another teammate, Stephen Cummings, was moving to Evans's aid. Cummings, however, had two flat tires. Evans waved frantically for assistance, and 1:30 elapsed between his puncture and the arrival of the BMC team. Moreover, the Australian punctured twice on the descent.
Evans was not alone. Thirty tires were punctured by carpet tacks that were placed on the road. When Wiggins learned of the mayhem, he slowed the pack to allow the riders with flats to get back on. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacked, but he was caught by angry Liquigas-Cannondale and Lotto-Belisol riders. Rolland claimed that he did not know about the problem when he attacked.
Ahead, attrition took its toll, and Sanchez, Izaguirre, Gilbert, Casar, and Sagan led the field with 14 km left. With 11.5 km to go, Sanchez attacked, and no one responded. The Spaniard's win is a boost to the morale of Rabobank, which is down to four riders because of injuries.
After the stage, the sabotage and Sky's reaction occupied everyone's thoughts. Wiggins said, "No one wants to see something like that have an impact on the race. As a group the thing to do was wait, the stage win was over. The climb was over. There was nothing left to contest really.
"If you can't gain time on the climbs, then you don't do it when someone's punctured--not even when it's an ordinary puncture. The climb was so narrow that the team cars were a long way back, and waiting seemed the honorable thing to do."
In the overall, Wiggins leads teammate Christopher Froome by 2:05 and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) by 2:23. Stage 15 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 158.5-km ride from Samatan to Pau will have a long, flat run to the finish that will be perfect for sprinters. Who will win? Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol)? Peter