Tour de France Stage 14: Forward Focused

Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) soloed to victory in Foix. An early escape group built up a 15 minutes advantage over the peloton ahead of the final climb, the Mur de Peguere. The breakaway split apart on the slopes of category one climb, and a group of five came back together on the descent. Sanchez attacked 12 kilometers from the finish. Peter Sagan (Liqugas-Cannondale) outkicked Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) 45 seconds later to win the four-up sprint for second.

Behind the peloton faced an unexpected challenge. Cadel Evans (BMC) punctured and had to wait more than a minute at the Mur de Peguere summit. As race radio reported puncture after puncture, it became clear that something out of the ordinary was causing the numerous flat tires. Race leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) directed his team to keep the tempo down and allow the defending champion an opportunity to rejoin the field. By the time the front group reached the finish line, more than 18 minutes down on Sanchez, photos of tacks pulled from tires had begun to emerge.

“We’re obviously disgusted to learn that this happened,” said Sports Director Matt White. “We were pretty lucky to have avoided punctures. We found tacks in tires at the finish but somehow had the good charmer to avoid flats. It’s disgraceful that people would do this sort of thing.”

“[Robert] Kiserlovski (Astana) crashed on the descent,” continued White. “I’m not actually sure that it was related to a puncture, but if it was, it was foul play that took him out of the race. It’s disgusting that someone would sabotage a rider’s livelihood.”

Before the drama of the closing kilometers, the field faced an aggressive start to stage 14.  It took 50 kilometers for the 11 rider break to go clear. Their gap quickly skyrocketed.

“The guys rode their hardest today,” said White. “Simon [Gerrans] and Pieter [Weening] made the first initial split, and when things came back together, they tried a number of other attacks. They missed out on the one that finally went away.”

Sagan, points classification leader, did not miss out on the winning move.

“We didn’t chase, and that’s because we have given up on the green jersey,” White admitted. “The competition was over yesterday. It would have been difficult to make up the points lost after Gossy was docked, and it became totally impossible after Sagan made huge gains over us yesterday. Sagan rubbed salt into the wound with the way he rode today. He’s the most impressive bike rider at the Tour de France aside from the GC guys.”

Rather than linger on what is lost, White insists the team is focused on what they still have to gain.

“We’re concentrating on the two remaining sprint opportunities for Gossy,” said White. “There are also still stages that suit our other riders. While we have ruled out the green jersey, our sights remain set on a stage win.”

UPDATE:

We’re fielding questions on Brett Lancaster following his crash yesterday. Matt White reports: 

“Brett had a rough day today. It’s a combination of things. He’s suffering from his crash and all the work he did on the front with Sebastian yesterday. He had a hard day but got through. He’ll need to do work with the physio over the next few day. Tomorrow is a shorter day, and then we have the rest day, so that should help, too."

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