Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) won stage 14 of the Tour de France from a five-man break, while Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) neutralised the race behind after a number of riders, including Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), punctured as a result of tacks spread across the road.
Sanchez attacked ten kilometres from the finish of the 191km stage in the Pyrenean foothills to claim his fourth career victory at the Tour, while Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished second to tighten his grip on the green jersey.
But the race for overall victory was temporarily postponed after an act of sabotage at the top of the category one Mur de Peguere, the last of three climbs and less than 40km from the finish, resulted in more than 30 punctures.
Evans suffered three punctures and the Australian initially lost more than a minute as the peloton continued on to the descent until Wiggins called a truce, with the main bunch eventually rolling across the line more than 18 minutes behind Sanchez.
“I heard rumours that there were thumb tacks on the road,” said Wiggins. “It’s unfortunate that something external to the racing is affecting the racing. It’s quite sad really.
“Everybody sees those situations differently but personally I wouldn’t want to benefit from something like that. I thought the best thing to do is to wait. If you can’t gain times on the climbs, then you don’t do it when someone’s punctured – not even when it’s an ordinary puncture.
“We were 17 minutes behind the breakaway [so] it made sense to ride easy for a couple of kilometres so everybody could get their wheels changed. The climb was so narrow that the team cars were a long way back and waiting seemed the honourable thing to do.
“No-one wants to see something like that have an impact on the race. The stage win was over. The climb was over. There was nothing left to contest really.”
The stage had followed a familiar format until that point. An 11-strong breakaway, instigated by Sagan, went away on the first climb, the category three Col du Portel, 30km from the start, and had built up a lead of 14 minutes after the category one Port de Lers.
That initial break was whittled down to five riders on the Mur de Peguere climb, however, with Sanchez joined by Sagan, Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat), Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) after attacking on the steep ascent, used in the Tour de France for the first time.
The quintet worked together until the closing kilometres when Sanchez launched his bid for glory, no doubt attacking early in the knowledge that Sagan, who had earlier claimed maximum points at the intermediate sprint, would be the overwhelming favourite if the five continued to contest a sprint finish.
Sanchez punched the air ahead of crossing the line, with victory providing welcome relief for the Spaniard’s Rabobank squad, who are down to just four riders. Sagan won the sprint for second and now has 333 points in the green jersey classification, with triple stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) a distant second on 236 points.
Wiggins continues to lead the general classification by two minutes and five seconds from fellow Brit and Sky team-mate Chris Froome, with Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) third, two minutes and 23 seconds adrift.
1) Luis Leon Sanchez (SPA) – Rabobank 4:50.29 hours
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Liquigas-Cannondale +47″
3) Sandy Casar (FRA) – FDJ-BigMat – same time
4) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing
5) Gorka Izaguirre (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi
6) Sergio Paulinho (POR) – SaxoBank-Tinkoff +2’51”
7) Sébastien Minard (FRA) – Ag2r La Mondiale – same time
8) Martin Velits (SVK) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +3’49”
9) Eduard Vorganov (RUS) – Katusha +4’51”
10) Steven Kruijswijk (NED) – Rabobank +4’53”
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 64:41.16
2) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +2.05
3)Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Liquigas-Cannondale +2.23
4) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +3.19
5) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto Belisol +4.48
6) Haimar Zubeldia (SPA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek + 6.15
7) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing +6.57
8) Janez Brajkovic (SLO) Astana +7.30
9) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Europcar +8.31
10) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ-Big Mat +8.51