Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tour de France Stage 14: atTACK atTACK!

On the first stage in the Pyrenees we could have expected some attacking riding. Though the final climb Mur de Péguère is a super steep new addition to the Tour, it was still 40km from the finish and any likely attack would probably be made on the descent by Vincenzo Nibali only to be caught further on up the road. As it was, thanks to some deliberate sabotage there were no attacks in the Yellow Jersey group, it was more a case of Tack's...

As the riders went over the final climb Cadel Evans was struck down with a puncture and with the road up to the summit so narrow he found himself alone with no support vehicle and a quick wheel change. Evans stood at the top for over a minute, frustrated as the leaders rode on until finally a team mate appeared in the form of Steve Cummings - great, a wheel change at last, only in an extraordinary twist of fate, Cummings rear wheel had also punctured! Evans waited for his next team mate and finally made the change.

Tack Lodged In Tyre
Meanwhile on the front Bradley Wiggins deliberately slowed the pace to allow Evans to catch up, as are the unwritten rules. Everyone in the Yellow Jersey group was in agreement - except Pierre Rolland who seized the opportunity, ripped up the rule book and attacked off the front while other were left screaming at him not to attack. Only further down the road was Rolland given orders (we assume) via his race radio and told to slow down. Not all publicity would be good publicity - now was no time to be making a whole crowd of enemies. With Rolland swallowed up by the bunch the peloton slowed again to Wait for Cadel, who by now had suffered a further 2 punctures to both his front and rear tyres! It took almost the whole BMC team to drag him back to Wiggins, who had also suffered a puncture further down the slope. Something was clearly awry here, which became evident as riders lined the side of the road all the way down the descent holding flat tyres aloft. Over 30 riders suffered punctures by the stage end though the breakaway escaped unscathed to the finish with a 17 minute lead and not a puncture between them, it appears the sabotage came between them and the chasing Yellow Jersey Group. A deliberate act.

The stage was effectively neutralised, which is certainly a shame because the final descent would have made for some interesting attacks I'm sure. More to the point though, the cost of punctures has mounted and many a team is out of pocket. Tubs are not cheap and worst still Robert Kiserlovski of Astana was forced to abandon after crashing as a direct result of the nails in the rode with suspected fractures. What may appear a mindless act of sabotage can have far reaching consequences. As far as I know there has been no news of who caused the incident or indeed why. It's not the first time it's happened in the Tour but it's been quite a few years since the last.

The only non tack related attack came in the closing kilometres in the breakaway as Luis Leon Sanchez attacked alone with 10km's to go and rode to the finish alone. It wasn't all plain sailing though as Sanchez and fellow breakaway rider Sandy Casar tried to distance Peter Sagan on the steep final climb, only Sagan had other ideas and clawed his way back much to the shock of Sanchez and Casar who are by far, or at least supposedly, the better climbers. It was miraculous riding by Sagan who continues to amaze with his varying talents. A bulky sprinter who can climb up 18% gradients with each will go a long way in cycling that's for sure. I'm starting to believe the hype that if he lost a bit more weight, he could become a genuine GC contender. Knowing that Sagan would beat him in the sprint, Sanchez was forced to attack solo and luckily, this time, it paid off. It was another fantastic breakaway win for Luis Leon Sanchez who is becoming a bit of a specialist at this, thanks to his stage hunting prowess today was his 4th Tour de France stage victory in his career and a saving grace for depleted Rabobank who are down to 4 riders and until now had nothing to show for their efforts.

Today's stage certainly shows that anything can happen in a three week race. We focus now to Wednesday and Thursday in the high Pyrenees - it will be the last chance for any attacks from anyone who wants to beat Wiggins in this years Tour. From here on it, its just a simply question of TACtics...

1 comment:

  1. It's like something out of Wacky Races. Do you suppose there is anynchance they'll nail - so to speak - the prick that did this?