Fans causes chaos by throwing sharp objects on course
FOIX, France – Crashes, falls, fractures – Bradley Wiggins has seen it all. Now add tacks and nails to list. Still, nothing can break his stranglehold on the Tour de France.
On a day of sabotage in the Pyrenees, Wiggins had luck on his side. He avoided the chaos and spent another trouble-free stage as his Sky team controlled his main rivals to protect his yellow jersey.
At least 30 riders were disrupted by tire punctures at the top of the final climb after tacks and small nails were tossed on the road. Tour officials asked police to investigate.
Defending champion Cadel Evans was caught in the havoc. He had to wait three times for assistance. He lost nearly 2 minutes at one point before teammates arrived and gave the former world champion a rear wheel.
But Wiggins honored cycling etiquette by not attempting to capitalize on Evans’ misfortune. He urged the peloton to slow down to allow Evans to return to the pack. Wiggins and Evans finished in the same time – 18 minutes, 15 seconds behind Luis Leon Sanchez, who won the 119-mile, 14th stage between Limoux and Foix.
This was the first day of racing in the Pyrenees, and Wiggins kept his overall lead of 2:05 over Sky teammate Christopher Froome. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy is third, 2:23 off the pace while Evans remains fourth, 3:19 behind.
“What can you do? It’s something we can’t control,” Wiggins said, referring to the sabotage that could have led to a reshuffle of the standings. “There’s nothing stopping more of that sort of stuff happening. 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.”
From time to time, stray dogs or photograph-snapping fans get hit by speeding riders. On Friday, Wiggins was hit on the arm and received minor burns from a flare waved by a spectator. Three years ago, Oscar Freire and Julien Dean were hit by pellets from an air rifle.
“We’re out there, quite vulnerable at times, very close to the public on climbs,” Wiggins said. “We’re just the riders at the end of the day and we’re there to be shot at, literally.”
Speaking on French TV, race director Jean-Francois Pescheux commended Sky for encouraging the pack to not speed ahead. He said the search for the culprit would be difficult because thousands of fans were on the edge of the road.
“This could have had terrible consequences on a descent like that,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. “This is dangerous and stupid behavior.”
Astana rider Robert Kiserlovski dropped out of the race after breaking his collarbone in an accident related to the tacks. Wiggins escaped although he did change bikes in the final descent.
Pierre Rolland was the only rider who attacked after Evans’ puncture.
“I don’t know whether he knew or not,” Wiggins said. “I knew straight away something had happened. I just thought it was a little bit uncouth at that time. The stage was gone. ... It didn’t seem the honorable thing to do.”
Rolland, ninth overall and 8:31 behind Wiggins, said he was not aware of what happened.
“I’m someone who respects the peloton and its codes and I would never have attacked a rider who punctured,” Rolland said. “It saddens me a bit.”