Sanchez saves Rabobank's Tour with stage win in Foix

Luis Leon Sanchez saved Rabobank's honour at the Tour de France, taking a solo win in Foix. He had taken off out of an escape group to take the win, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) second and Sandy Casar of FDJ-BigMat third. The peloton with yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins finally came in more than 18 minutes after the Spaniard joyously crossed the finish line.

An early break roared to a huge lead on the first Pyrenees stage, and with an advantage of 15 minutes on the climbs, there was no doubt that they would go for the win. It broke down to a group of Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Sandy Casar (FDJ-Big Mat), Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC). With 11.5km to go, Sanchez attacked and soloed in to the win.

The main drama of the day came at the top of the final climb, the category one Mur de Péguère. Evans punctured, and had to wait an agonizing 1:15 before help arrived. He had two more punctures on the descent, and the only positive side of his delays was that more of his BMC teammates were able to catch up to him to help.

Yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins tried to keep the tempo down, to allow the defending champion to catch up, and, accompanied by virtually the entire BMC team, Evans rejoined the field before the finale.

Evans was not the only one who punctured, and in fact, there so many problems that suspicions arose. It was soon being said that tacks had been tossed onto the road. “We don't know,” said BMC's George Hincapie. “There was clearly something on the road, probably on the climb or just after. Everyone was flatting. I've never seen anything like it.”

Photos of tacks pulled from tyres soon made the rounds. They claimed one victim, as well. Robert Kiserlovski of Astana crashed just after the summit, apparently due to the tacks, and had to leave the race with suspected fractures.

Sanchez' victory saved the Tour for Rabobank, which had been devastated by injuries and was down to only four riders. Even more uplifting for the Dutch team was the fast that all four riders made the front group, making Rabobank the best team on the day.

It was the fourth career Tour de France stage win for the 28-year-old Spaniard.

"I had three stage wins in other Tours and this year the race turned hard from the first day and it looked like it would be impossible,” he said, according to “But when you fight you can get things done. We have only four riders in the race but when you want it, in the end, you can get the victory."

Sanchez, who had tears in his eyes after his win, knew who to fear. "Sagan can win any sprint in the Tour, so today, in a break with so few people, he would have won easily. I attacked from far out and everything went right.

“Fortunately, I have a family that supports me in everything, me and my brother. My daughter will have seen it on television. And I'm very happy. "

Sagan acknowledged the better man had won the stage.“Luis Leon attacked and we couldn't go with him." And he also noted that he had only himself to blame, as he was eating when Sanchez attacked. "Yes, I should have kept a better eye on him. In the last few kilometers I needed to eat. I wasn't expecting him to attack me at that point. He is experienced and I am not bitter about it. Even if I'd managed to stay with him I might not have won."

“We tried to attack Sagan on the last climb because we knew he was the fastest, but in the end Luis Leon made his jump and we just had nothing left to respond,” Casar said after the stage. “I'm very disappointed. I really wanted to win today.” Sagan “is incredible – we tried on the climb but we couldn't shake him off.”

Large break group on the first day in the Pyrenees

The day's group took some 50km to form, but it turned out to be a potent one, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Philippe Gilbert (BMC-Racing Team), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Gorka Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sebastien Minard (AG2R-Le Mondiale), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Sandy Casar (FDJ-Big Mat), Sergio Paulinho (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), Steven Kruijswijk and Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Martin Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). The gap quickly skyrocketed and there was no doubt as to their making it to the finish.

With an impeccable sense of bad timing, the rain started as the leaders went up the first of the day's two category one climbs, the Port du Lers at km 126.5. The break group went over together, and the fans were treated to the unusual sight of world champion Mark Cavendish leading the field on the climb.

Things changed on the second climb, the Mur de Péguère. Three kilometers from the summit, Sanchez attacked, followed by Gilbert. Izagirre and Casar caught them, and Sagan showed his strength to stay in touch with them.

At almost the same time Casar led the way over the top, Evans attacked out of the field – or at least, tried to. He was unable to get away, as has so often happened in this Tour. But worse problems were to come for him.

He pulled over at the top of the climb with a punctured rear tyre and had to wait, gesturing furiously for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually his teammate Stephen Cummings appeared, but - amazingly - he also had a rear puncture. Finally, two more teammates arrived almost simultaneously with the neutral support car, and the Australian was finally underway again. Although it seemed to be forever before he was able to do so, it was only 1:15.

But more problems awaited, as he had to stop and change bikes and later even punctured again. Nor was he the only one to suffer, as the punctures rapidly became too numerous to count. It was later confirmed that “something” had been strewn on the road.

Ahead, Wiggins took a bike change as a precaution while the pace was low, and was quickly underway again. His team held the tempo down throughout the ordeals as a gesture of fairness, but Pierre Rolland of Europcar took advantage of the slower pace to make a move on the descent. Lotto Belisol and Liquigas showed no mercy in hunting him down, and once he was caught the pace went down again.

Sanchez, Gilbert, Izagirre, Casar and Sagan were all together with 14 km to go, but with 11.5km left Sanchez took advantage of a rise to put his winning move in. Rabobank's Spaniard slowly built out his lead and was able to cross the finish line 47 seconds ahead of his former companions.

The peloton was about 15 minutes back by then, but kept things slow enough that Evans and BMC were able to catch up with them.

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team4:50:29
2Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale0:00:47
3Sandy Casar (Fra) FDJ-Big MatRow 2 - Cell 2
4Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 4 - Cell 2
6Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank0:02:51
7Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 6 - Cell 2
8Martin Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quickstep0:03:49
9Eduard Vorganov (Rus) Katusha Team0:04:51
10Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team0:04:53
11Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar0:14:53
12Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne0:18:15
13Julien Simon (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 12 - Cell 2
14Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 13 - Cell 2
15Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 14 - Cell 2
16Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 16 - Cell 2
18Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 17 - Cell 2
19Brice Feillu (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 18 - Cell 2
20Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky ProcyclingRow 19 - Cell 2
21Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling TeamRow 20 - Cell 2
22Christian Knees (Ger) Sky ProcyclingRow 21 - Cell 2
23Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ-Big MatRow 22 - Cell 2
24Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff BankRow 23 - Cell 2
25Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky ProcyclingRow 24 - Cell 2
26Davide Malacarne (Ita) Team EuropcarRow 25 - Cell 2
27Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-NissanRow 26 - Cell 2
28Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 27 - Cell 2
29Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol TeamRow 28 - Cell 2
30Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky ProcyclingRow 29 - Cell 2
31Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing TeamRow 30 - Cell 2
32Richie Porte (Aus) Sky ProcyclingRow 31 - Cell 2
33Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro TeamRow 32 - Cell 2
34Francis De Greef (Bel) Lotto Belisol TeamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-NissanRow 34 - Cell 2
36Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 35 - Cell 2
37Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 36 - Cell 2
38Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar TeamRow 37 - Cell 2
39Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 38 - Cell 2
40Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing TeamRow 39 - Cell 2
41Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-NissanRow 40 - Cell 2
42Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big MatRow 41 - Cell 2
43Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing TeamRow 42 - Cell 2
44George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 43 - Cell 2
45Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46Federico Canuti (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 45 - Cell 2
47Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 46 - Cell 2
48Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 47 - Cell 2
49Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro TeamRow 48 - Cell 2
50Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing TeamRow 49 - Cell 2
51Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 50 - Cell 2
52Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-NissanRow 51 - Cell 2
53Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol TeamRow 52 - Cell 2
54Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-NissanRow 53 - Cell 2
55Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-NissanRow 54 - Cell 2
56Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing TeamRow 55 - Cell 2
57Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 56 - Cell 2
58Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 57 - Cell 2
59Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 58 - Cell 2
60Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickstepRow 59 - Cell 2
61Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar TeamRow 60 - Cell 2
62Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica GreenEdge Cycling TeamRow 61 - Cell 2
63Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol TeamRow 62 - Cell 2
64Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 63 - Cell 2
65Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Pro TeamRow 64 - Cell 2
66Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Movistar TeamRow 65 - Cell 2
67Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-CannondaleRow 66 - Cell 2
68Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma-QuickstepRow 67 - Cell 2
69Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar0:18:27
70Jens Voigt (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan0:21:19
71Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ-Big MatRow 70 - Cell 2
72Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ-Big MatRow 71 - Cell 2
73Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 72 - Cell 2
74Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff BankRow 73 - Cell 2
75Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En LigneRow 74 - Cell 2
76Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin - SharpRow 75 - Cell 2
77Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 76 - Cell 2
78Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ-Big MatRow 77 - Cell 2
79Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 78 - Cell 2
80Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 79 - Cell 2
81Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha TeamRow 80 - Cell 2
82Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne0:23:33
83Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling TeamRow 82 - Cell 2
84Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 83 - Cell 2
85Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing Team0:26:01
86Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha TeamRow 85 - Cell 2
87Guillaume Levarlet (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 86 - Cell 2
88Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Saur - SojasunRow 87 - Cell 2
89Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickstepRow 88 - Cell 2
90Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre - ISDRow 89 - Cell 2
91Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha TeamRow 90 - Cell 2
92Albert Timmer (Ned) Argos-Shimano0:28:18
93Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickstepRow 92 - Cell 2
94Roy Curvers (Ned) Argos-ShimanoRow 93 - Cell 2
95Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale