Cadel Evans nearly lost all hope of winning the 2012 Tour de France when he suffered multiple punctures on the final climb of stage 14 to Foix.
Evans punctured the first time near the top. His BMC team-mate Tejay Van Garderen carried on with yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins and the Australian was stranded at the top of the climb for almost a minute.
"I wasn't quite sure if he had another team-mate in there with him, but in hindsight, I should've waited for him," Van Garderen said. "It was pretty loud and chaotic, and I mean, I could kind of gather he had a punctured, but ah..."
Eventually Stephen Cummings arrived at the top, but his rear wheel was flat too. He stopped and waited with Evans, but could do nothing. Then, seconds later, George Hincapie arrived and was able to give Evans a wheel, although the BMC soigneur at the top then struggled to get the wheel in to Evans's bike.
The lead group with Van Garderen contained about 15 cyclists. Van Garderen sits seventh overall and holds the white jersey of best young rider. In the group was also Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), who is second in the young rider classification at just under two minutes.
"He was in that group. I don't know if he was in front of [Evans], behind him, I don't know," BMC's general manager, Jim Ochowicz said to a group of journalists. "We were far behind in the car at that moment so we couldn't tell and the TV was on and off."
Tour event director, Jean-François Pescheux later reported that somebody had thrown tacks on the road. He showed them on French television after the stage and confirmed that there were as many as 30 punctures of the top of the Mur de Pérguére, an extremely narrow climb. They may have appeared after the escape passed as none of the riders from the group punctured.
On the descent, Evans punctured again, then stopped a third time to adjust a wheel. Cycling Weekly received confirmation that the Movistar team car also punctured, while several moto pilots Tweeted pictures of their wheels with tacks stuck in them.
Robert Kiserlovski came off worse when a puncture caused him to crash and break his collarbone.
Garmin and Sky were among the teams that kept rolling smoothly, though race leader Wiggins stopped for a bike change on the descent.
Around "30-40 blokes punctured. That's it. We were lucky, no one punctured," Sky's team principal, David Brailsford said. "Brad changed his bike, but there was no panic. Brad took the view that there was something wrong, so he slowed down a bit and decided not to take advantage. A couple of other teams took it on at the bottom of the hill, but that's there decision."
As soon as Wiggins got back to the group, he slowed things down to allow Evans to rejoin. At that moment, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacked. He later said he was unaware of the puncture Evans suffered. The Lotto and Liquigas teams did most of the work to chase the Frenchman down, as soon as they had caught him the group sat up and rolled to the finish in Foix.
"It's pretty obvious if something like that happens, that's not bike racing is it? If someone wants to take it upon himself and do that..." Brailsford continued. "Fair play to Bradley, it's a very sportsman-like effort."
"I don't say anything to [Rolland], this is... He has to live with that," Ochowicz said. "I don't think Rolland was very sporting in that effort. The others respected that it was not just us having problems."
"I don't know whether he knew or not. Only he would know obviously," Wiggins said of Rolland. "We caught him once and then he attacked again. I don't know. I knew straight away that something had happened and I am sure everyone else did. It didn't seem the honourable thing to do really, to benefit from other peoples' misfortune at part of a race which was over."
Photo: Philippe Van Holle of La Dernière Heure newspaper
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Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list
Tour 2012: Who will win?
Tour de France 2012 provisional start list
Tour de France 2012 team list
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank's Tour
Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage
Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last
Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back
Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour
Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT
Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Analysis: What we learned at La Planche des Belles Filles
Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour's time trials
CW's Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation - chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 14 by Graham Watson
Stage 13 by Graham Watson
Stage 12 by Graham Watson
Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Andy Jones
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Stage 10 live coverage
Stage nine live coverage
Stage six live coverage
Stage five live coverage
Stage four live coverage
Stage three live coverage
Cycling Weekly's live text coverage schedule
Tour de France 2012: TV schedule
ITV4 live schedule
British Eurosport live schedule
Tour de France 2012: Related links
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Brief history of the Tour de France
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever
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