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Tour de France organisers doubtful of locating sabotage suspects

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Cadel Evans (BMC) chases back on after several punctures

Cadel Evans (BMC) chases back on after several punctures (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The BMC mechanic fits Cadel Evans with a new wheel

The BMC mechanic fits Cadel Evans with a new wheel (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Many riders suffered flat tires

Many riders suffered flat tires (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Organisers of the Tour de France denounced the action of unknown assailants who scattered upholstery tacks along the final climb of stage 14 on Sunday, causing at least one crash and punctures for dozens of riders.

Race director Jean-Francois Pescheux said to AFP, "One or two spectators had thrown nails on to the road, we don't know why, but there were around 30 punctures altogether", adding that it would be difficult to locate the perpetrators amongst the thousands of fans that lined the road sides.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme denounced the action, saying "it could have had tragic circumstances", but emphasized that despite the difficulties in securing a route several thousand kilometers in length, acts such as these are not common.

"It's very rare, but particularly dangerous. I can only condemn it as a stupid act."

Stage 14 finished as one might expect: with the general classification contenders finishing together behind a breakaway that contested the stage victory. It is a textbook demonstration of race tactics in a transitional stage between mountain challenges. Sunday's stage to Foix, however, was a bit more dramatic after the tacks stopped first Andreas Klöden on the approach to the summit of the Mur de Péguère, and then Cadel Evans at the top with flat tyres.

Astana's Robert Kiserlovski, an animator of several stages in the Tour, crashed after the summit of the Mur de Péguère as he swerved to help team leader Janez Brajkovic, who had flatted. Kiserlovski was forced to drop out of the Tour with a suspected collarbone fracture. The incident also sent American Levi Leipheimer to the ground.

"Brajkovic had a flat tire just after the last climb," Leipheimer said. "Kiserlovski moved from left to right to give him his wheel and I couldn't avoid the collision. I hit him and I crashed. I feel bad for him, but it was an accident."

Pescheux praised the team of race leader Bradley Wiggins, which led the effort to control the pace to allow all of the riders who had punctured to get back into the group after visiting seriously overwhelmed neutral and team support vehicles.

"Sky immediately stopped the pack so that everyone could finish in the best conditions," Pescheux said according to the Associated PRess. "Sky were very sporting, they slowed things down and everything returned to order."

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