Stage 14 of the Tour de France came to life for the wrong reasons when a number of riders fell victim to a spate of tacks strewn across the road on the final climb of the day.
At the summit of the Mur de Péguère and with the GC battle seemingly shelved for another day, Cadel Evans was the highest profile rider to suffer an untimely puncture. With his rivals racing down the descent and to the finish in Foix, Evans had to wait what seemed like an eternity before assistance came. Only when it did arrive in the form Steven Cummings, Evans was greeted by a teammate with a puncture in each of his wheels.
The wait went on but finally, after much remonstrating on the side of the road, Evans was able to give chase. However, another puncture on the descent cost the defending Tour champion even more time. Help was still at hand when Jim Ochowicz leapt from the BMC team car but his footing gave way leaving the team manager sliding into the ditch and Evans once again cursing his luck.
The comedy of errors was finally put to rest when Evans was joined by a number of his teammates and eventually made contact with the peloton before the finish, in part due to race leader Bradley Wiggins calling for a truce.
When asked about those who had thrown tacks on the road, Evans said, "The world’s full of people like that unfortunately. Well, not full, but abundant. When you’re in a bike race and people see something they can gain whether it’s a protest or something they can gain from you as someone who is reasonably well-known. That’s the way it goes, hopefully in life karma comes around."
The Australian said he had no way to avoid the small, sharp upholstery tacks, which caused punctures for dozens of riders.
"You can’t see tacks on the road. It happened to me three times and at crucial moments. I’m yet to see what happened in the group in front."
"This has happened to me before, two times in Spain. For that reason, I don’t race in Spain very often. Sorry for the good Spanish people and my friends in Spain but there’s a few people in their country who take things too far. It cost me a Vuelta, it’s cost me other races," he said, recalling stage 13 of the Tour of Spain 2009, when a puncture and agonizingly slow wheel change cost him a chance at the overall victory.
"Thanks to the guys, George, Micky and Amael who went well beyond his limits today. To have three punctures on the descent and just to change your wheel with the car so far behind is hard."
BMC’s John Lelangue was at the finish and pulled a tack from the tire of Evans’ third flat. "I don't know what word to use for them. It's criminal, there are already enough risks for the rider on the downhill."
As for Rolland’s attack, Ochowicz appeared none to pleased and in this exclusive video for Cyclingnews talks about the Frenchman’s racing etiquette, the tacks on the final climb and descent and the radio contact between Cadel and the car.