Tacks deflate Tour riders

Olympic road champ Sanchez wins 14th stage

Cheerleaders for the rugby team in Perpignan, France, show their support for the Tour de France riders Sunday during their trek from Limoux to Foix. Spain’s Luis-Leon Sanchez won the 118.7-mile stage. Enlarge photo

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

Cheerleaders for the rugby team in Perpignan, France, show their support for the Tour de France riders Sunday during their trek from Limoux to Foix. Spain’s Luis-Leon Sanchez won the 118.7-mile stage.

FOIX, France – Luis Leon Sanchez of Spain won the 14th stage of the Tour de France, and Bradley Wiggins kept the yellow jersey Sunday when at least 30 riders were slowed by flat tires from tacks thrown onto the road.

The tacks apparently were tossed by someone in the crowd near the summit of the final climb, about 25 miles from the finish of a route that took the three-week race into the Pyrenees.

Tour officials asked police to investigate.

Defending champion Cadel Evans was among the riders whose tire was punctured. The Australian had to wait nearly 2 minutes before a teammate got there and gave Evans his rear wheel.

Wiggins didn’t attempt to capitalize on Evans’ misfortune. He asked the main pack to slow to allow the defending champ to return to the pack.

His BMC teammates pulled him back.

Sanchez, hampered by a wrist injury during the first week of the race, crossed himself and pointed his fingers toward the sky as he went over the finish line.

The Spaniard, the reigning Olympic champion, was among a group of five riders who broke away on the final ascent, the Mur de Peguere.

He then made his decisive move seven miles from the finish for the fourth Tour stage victory of his career.

Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, who has the green jersey as the top sprinter, finished second, 47 seconds behind Sanchez. France’s Sandy Casar was third in the same time.

“With Philippe Gilbert and Sagan in the breakaway, I knew that my only chance was to try my luck on my own from far away,” said Sanchez, the Spain national time trial champion.

Wiggins and all other contenders crossed the finish line more than 18 minutes behind Sanchez.

Wiggins, however, maintained his lead as the breakaway riders were lagging well behind in the overall standings.

Wiggins, bidding to become the first British rider to win the Tour, leads Sky teammate Christopher Froome by 2 minutes, 5 seconds overall.

Vincenzo Nibali of Italy is third, 2:23 off the pace.

Sagan and two other riders managed to escape from the main pack after 22 miles during the descent after the first climb of the day. The 3.3-mile ascent split the bunch in two as RadioShack stars Andreas Kloden and Frank Schleck were dropped along with a group of about 60 riders.

With Orica-GreenEdge cyclists organizing the chase to keep sprinter Matt Goss in contention for the green jersey, Sagan, Sergio Paulinho and Steven Kruiswijk struggled to build their lead.

But eight riders, including Gilbert, Casar and Sanchez, broke away in pursuit of Sagan’s trio and bridged the gap while the second peloton caught up with the yellow jersey’s group.

With none of the 11 escapees posing a threat in the overall standings, they were given the freedom to continue and established a 10-minute lead at the 45-mile mark.

When Paulinho led the breakaway group over the summit, they were still 14 minutes ahead of the peloton.

After a tricky and challenging descent on slippery roads, they increased the lead to 15 minutes before the final ascent.

Sanchez stayed on the wheel of Rabobank teammate Kruiswijk during the first few miles of the ascent before accelerating on the steepest part. That knocked a few riders out of the leading group, with Casar, Gilbert, Sagan and Gorka Izaguirre the only ones able to stand the pace.

Evans tried to break away from the main pack in the Mur de Peguere. But his attack lacked punch, and Wiggins and Nibali responded immediately.

Wiggins’ teammates Froome and Richie Porte then moved in front to re-establish control.

Defending Tour de France winner Cadel Evans of Australia had to wait for team mechanics to help replace his rear tire that had been flatted by tacks spread on the roadway. The peloton, as is the cycling custom, waited for Evans and his BMC teammates to rejoin the field after the puncture. Enlarge photo

Fred Mons/Associated Press

Defending Tour de France winner Cadel Evans of Australia had to wait for team mechanics to help replace his rear tire that had been flatted by tacks spread on the roadway. The peloton, as is the cycling custom, waited for Evans and his BMC teammates to rejoin the field after the puncture.

Luis-Leon Sanchez of Spain was part of a five-rider breakaway Sunday in the Tour de France. He rolled across the finish line in Foix, France, as the stage winner. Enlarge photo

Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

Luis-Leon Sanchez of Spain was part of a five-rider breakaway Sunday in the Tour de France. He rolled across the finish line in Foix, France, as the stage winner.

Overall leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain sported the yellow jersey while he was escorted by a legion of his Sky teammates. Enlarge photo

Christophe Ena/Associated Press

Overall leader Bradley Wiggins of Britain sported the yellow jersey while he was escorted by a legion of his Sky teammates.