Sunday July 15th, 2012

Stage 14Limoux / Foix

Start 12h25 GMT 2+

Sanchez success on a day of sabotage...

Stage summary15.07.2012Stage 14- Limoux / Foix

© A.S.O.

Luis Leon Sanchez knows how to attack, how to climb and how to descend. He is one of the most aggressive men in the peloton and even though he was plagued with injuries sustained in a crash in stage one, he insisted on staying in the race even though he only has three team-mates along for support. Never mind if logic dictates that he should limp through to Paris: he wanted to give Rabobank a reward for what has been a Tour plagued with problems. He would ultimately win his fourth stage of the Tour de France but the 14th stage of the 2012 race will be remembered for the sabotage that threatened to influence the overall classification. Eventually cool heads prevailed and the biggest potential loser of the stage, Cadel Evans was given a lifeline by his main rivals who all realised that attacking a rider who was a victim of what the competition director of the Tour, Jean-François Pescheux claimed was sabotage. The results tell one part of the story but there's a lot more to it than an apathetic bunch rolling in over 18 minutes behind the stage winner...

The progress report
The 14th stage of the 2012 Tour de France began at 12.19pm with 163 riders still in the race. The 191km race featured three climbs: the cat-two col du Portel (at 30km), followed by two category-one ascents: the Port de Lers (at 126.5km) and the Mur de Péguère (at 152.5km). The intermediate sprint was in Tarascon-sur-Ariège at 99km. There was a tailwind early and the pace at the start was fast. Although there were numerous escape attempts including the likes of Paulinho (4km) nothing was allowed any leeway. At 19km Sagan (LIQ) tried his luck with an attack but it lasted only a matter of minutes. Taaramae was on the attack on the first climb but the bunch was essentially together until the top when Voeckler led Kessiakoff over the line. It wasn't until the 35km mark that any riders could break the grip of the peloton... and it was the irrepressible Mr Sagan (LIQ) who started the move. He was joined by Kruiswijk (RAB) and Paulinho (STB).

Peloton splits momentarily
After 38km the peloton was split in to two distinct groups with Kloden, Schleck, Coppel and a number of other GC riders in the second group that was as much as 1'45” behind the first at one point but there was a regrouping at 54km. By then Sagan's trio was ahead of a group of eight counter-attackers - Gilbert (BMC), Gautier (EUC), Izaguirre (EUS), Minard (ALM), Vorganov (KAT), Casar (FDJ), Sanchez (RAB) and M. Velits (OPQ) – who joined the lead group at 56km. When the 11 at the front joined forces, the peloton was 1'10” behind. The Russian champion was the best on GC (26th overall, at 33'59”).

11 in the escape... including half of the remaining Rabobank team
The average speed for the second hour was 40.6km/h and by then the 11-man lead group was well ahead of the peloton that was led by the Sky team. The advantage of the escapees grew to 13'30” at the intermediate sprint. Sagan took the 20 points but was unchallenged as he rolled over the line in Tarascon. Greipel took 12th place but he was also unchallenged in the hunt for points. Gautier had to change a bike early on the descent (and he rejoined the lead group in the first kilometre of the third climb). The peloton arrived at the base of the Port de Lers 15 minutes behind Sagan's group. Paulinho led the escape over the top of the second climb. The peloton was led by Eisel (SKY) most of the way up (with Cavendish right on his wheel) but, just before the top, Knees took over the pace setting. Light rain fell as the riders crested the second climb.

Péguère wall splits the leaders
With 4km to go on the third climb, Kruiswijk set Sanchez up to surge over the steep section of the climb and this split the lead group. Only Gilbert, Casar and Izaguirre could follow the Spaniard. Casar went to the front in the final 500m of the climb and led over the top, followed by Izaguirre and Sagan at 5”, then came Gilbert and Sanchez at 25”... With 30km to go, Sagan and Izaguirre caught Casar. With 20km to go there were five in the lead: Sanchez, Izaguirre, Sagan, Casar and Gilbert. This quintet rode together until Sanchez attacked with 11km to go. The others wouldn't see him again until after the line.

Sabotage threatens to influence the race for GC honours...
Just at the top of the final climb there was a succession of punctures. Until that moment there hadn't been any attacks from the yellow jersey group but Evans was utterly stranded without mechanical assistance at the summit. He had his rear wheel out for what seemed like an eternity before, finally, Burghardt arrived to offer a wheel but there seemed to be some incompatibility and it wasn't until Moinard arrived on the scene that they started trying to swap wheels. But then Wiggins had been made aware of the situation and he signalled a truce in his group that contained about 15 men. Everyone but Rolland agreed that they would wait for the defending champion who was struck with misfortune.
In a scene reminiscent of the infamous 13th stage of the 2009 Vuelta a España when Evans effectively lost a chance of winning the title because of a very long wait for a wheel change, the Australian finally got mechanical assistance but it was far from a simple wheel change. When he stopped to get a second new wheel, his manager Jim Ochowicz slid into a drain on the side of the road, almost falling over and making the situation seem a little slapstick... but it was no comedy. The competition director Jean-François Pescheux later claimed that there were tacks on the road and that's what caused the spate of punctures. Sabotage could have influenced general classification but cool heads prevailed and ultimately all the GC riders joined forced and rolled to the finish together well behind the stage winner. But by then both Lotto-Belisol and Liquigas-Cannondale had spent some time on the attack at the front of a group containing Wiggins who was adamant that the right thing to do was wait for Evans.

Sanchez claims a win for Rabobank
While chaos reigned behind the escape, Luis Leon Sanchez seized his chance for another stage win. He only increased his advantage over the four chasing riders after his attack with 11km to go. Although his Rabobank team was down to just four riders, two of them were on the attack today and the Spaniard claimed his fourth stage victory in the Tour de France – following successes in Aurillac (2008), St-Girons (2009) and St-Flour (2011). He beat Sagan and the three other former escapees by 47”.
Wiggins finished the stage in 15th place spot ahead of Evans who were part of a large group that was 18'15” behind Sanchez. The leader of the Sky team will wear the yellow jersey in stage 15.

Stage 14 Limoux / Limoux

All about the stage key moments

Jersey wearers after the stage 5

Classifications after the stage 5

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