Just when you thought stage 14 of the 2012 Tour de France couldn’t get any worse, it did.
The Pyrénéan stage, with its two category-one climbs — which no less an authority than John Wilcockson had expected to provide “the best chance yet” for Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali or Jurgen Van den Broucke to yank Bradley Wiggins out of his golden palanquin — turned into a nothing-burger of a training ride, with a break a quarter-hour up the road and the GC guys back in the bunch trading organic chamois-cream recipes. (Handy household hint: If you see Mark Cavendish at the front of the bunch on a climb, nobody is busting his balls. Except maybe Cavendish.)
That was bad enough for those of us trying to keep a live update, well, lively.
But then some fuckwit or fuckwits unknown decided it would be fun to salt the final climb with tacks.
There were some 30 punctures, though whether that refers to tires or riders remains unclear. Evans had three flats of his own — the first left him standing atop the final summit with a teammate who also lacked a functional rear wheel, awaiting neutral service, AAA or the Better World Club, whichever would accept his Credit Lyonnais credit card.
Evans finally got going again, and maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins asked the bunch to ride piano until the defending champ got back on, though Europcar’s Pierre Rolland, Lotto-Belisol and Liquigas-Cannondale apparently missed the memo. Those rascals soon got sorted out, however, and that was that, although Rolland should consider himself out of the Miss Congeniality competition this year.
Robert Kiserlovski got the worst of it — Jani Brajkovic flatted after that last climb, Kiserlovski apparently swerved over to give him a wheel, Levi Leipheimer T-boned him, and Kiserlovski left the Tour with a busted collarbone.
Oh, yeah — there was some actual racing going on. Luis Leon Sanchez popped out of that break while green jersey Peter Sagan was having a nosh and rode solo to the stage win. Sagan had looked like the man of the hour until Sanchez caught him with his mouth full.
“Yes, I should have kept a better eye on him,” Sagan told Cyclingnews.” 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.”