Today the Tour headed towards the Pyrenees. It was a nice Sunday to attack. In the first hour a lot of riders fought for a place in the head bunch. When finally the head bunch was made up, the peloton let them go. They got more than fifteen minutes, so it was obvious that the winner would be one of the riders in the head bunch. There wasn’t much going on until of all a sudden a lot of riders got a flat tire on the Mur de Péguére. Many people saw that Cadel Evans stopped at the top of the mountain. When his teammate Cummings got to him and wanted to give him his wheel, Cummings discovered that he had a flat tire too. Evans had to wait for another teammate and stood on the top for about two minutes.
Laurens ten Dam from Team Rabobank stated that he saw that Evans got a flat tire. He also saw that Rui Costa and Klöden got a flat. He thought there was more to it and went up front to warn Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins took his responsibility as the leader of the general classification and slowed down the peloton in order to give Evans the chance to get back. Evans, after the first flat tire, had one more on the descent of the Mur de Péguére. His team manager Ochowicz even fell into a roadside ditch, because he got out of the team car too fast in order to help. Some riders ended up with more than two or three nails in their tires.
© Adam Hansen
After the race it turned out that between thirty and forty riders in the peloton had a flat tire. Robert Kiserlovski, a rider of Team Astana, heavily crashed because of the tacks that were thrown on the road. Last reports tell that he has a broken collarbone. Even team cars ended up with nails in their tires, like the team car of Team Movistar, as you can see in the photo below.
© Andries Hoekstra
This situation clearly brings back memories of the early days of cycling. Supporters of riders already threw nails and broken glass on the road in 1904. Although it already had been forbidden during that time, spectators continued to throw things on the road, just to let the opponents of their heroes lose time. In 1906 supporters made it even worse, by throwing nails on the road in already the first stage of La Grande Boucle. It resulted in a flat tire for all of the riders, except for Petit-Breton. In 1996, nails were also thrown on the road. None of the riders punctured, but some of the team cars did.
It seems that the tacks thrown on the road today were not a sabotage towards one of the riders or a particular team in the race. As team manager Jim Ochowicz from BMC said in an interview with the press: “it was sabotage. Not against us, but against the race, it must be.” Cadel Evans tweeted that he had a flat three times and called it “a dramatic day”. Kessiakoff stated on Twitter that he found out that it was sabotage after the race and called the ones who did it “idiots”. Levi Leipheimer called it “criminal”, Chris Froome thought it was “sad” and Laurens ten Dam said on twitter that he had a flat tire because of “some dickhead that threw tacks on the road”.
Race director Jean-Francois Pescheux made clear that the organisation has no idea why someone would throw nails on the road. He stated that “the nails were mainly thrown on the ground around 200 metres from the summit” and suspects that one or two spectators are responsible for the action.
It was not the first absurd occurrence of this Tour. Wiggins already suffered from a minor burn on his arm. Supporters were running with him up the hill and carried flares with them. Wiggins told the press that he was alright and that other riders threw quite a lot of water bottles towards the guys with the flares.
In the meantime the police is still looking for the people who threw nails on the climb and the descent of the Mur de Péguére. It might be hard to find them, because at that moment thousands of people were standing on the climb. Some people state that this is just the beginning and that there is more to come while riding in the Pyrenees. It seems that there are people who do not like the Tour to be going through that area and that this might be the reason for the sabotage.
© Renaat Schotte