Tour de France: Lotto-Belisol explains chase of Rolland after tacks neutralization
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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tour de France: Lotto-Belisol explains chase of Rolland after tacks neutralization

by Kyle Moore at 9:50 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
tales of trouble and strong reactions to the sabotage from the peloton

Tour de FranceLotto-Belisol has defended its interruption of the race neutralization implemented by Sky Procycling and race leader Bradley Wiggins after Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and numerous others picked up flat tires after deviants peppered the road with tacks near the top of the Mur de Péguère.

As soon as the descent began with Evans stuck at the top of the climb needing a wheel, Sky came to the fore and brought the pace to a moderate coast, as riders discussed the developing situation. But Pierre Rolland (Europcar) pushed on anyway, and though he explained and rationalized later, Rolland would end up forcing Lotto-Belisol and Liquigas-Cannondale to push the pace in the peloton before Evans had returned.

Rolland had soon achieved a 90-second gap, threatening the general classification position of Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing). He eventually pulled up and was brought back, with Evans and most others getting back on before the finish.

“The final part of the ascent of the last climb was very chaotic,” Lotto-Belisol director Marc Sergeant said. “The team leader’s cars were very far behind the front of the field and we could not pass because the road was barely a few metres wide. Radio communication was very bad, so we barely got the race information.”

The Belgian team did not mean to anger any of the riders caught out by the sabotage, but were forced into action when Rolland went up the road.

“I understand why Sky made this decision [to neutralize the field],” Sergeant continued. “They felt the need to not go on. For us it was dangerous when Rolland got a serious advantage, so we had to ride. He is a candidate for the top ten and the gap grew quickly, given how much the peloton had slowed. We could not let this happen, so we put [Jelle] Vanendert and [Adam] Hansen at the front when they had rejoined.”

It was a recipe for disaster with all the factors combined, in a difficult situation kicked off by thoughtless, heartless individuals. With the extremely narrow and steep road on the Mur de Péguère climb, team cars were not allowed up with riders. Consequently, when Evans needed a wheel, the BMC team car was nowhere close. Steve Cummings rolled up and Evans asked for a wheel from his team-mate, but Cummings was unable as he reportedly had two flats himself.

As more riders became handicapped, they were left helpless at the side of the road with team cars far away – too far even for radio communication. Robert Kiserlovski (Astana) was worst off, after crashing with Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) as the Croatian rider moved to the side quickly to help his team leader, Janez Brajkovic, who had flatted. Kiserlovski was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone.

Though they were thankful that nothing worse happened, riders and directors had understandably strong reactions after stage 14. Some of their accounts and reactions:

Evans: “The main thing is that [flat tires] happened to me three times, and at crucial moments. Fortunately, we had George Hincapie, Michael Schär and Amaël [Moinard] – who went well beyond his limits today – along with Marcus Burghardt, and the chase was well organized.”

Giuseppe Martinelli, Astana director: “Today was particularly unlucky for us. Kiserlovski's fall was the last thing we needed. It is now going to be even harder for Brajkovič without one of his key domestiques. Additionally, Robert was important both for our team classification and in helping Kessiakoff in his goal to win the King of the Mountains competition. The multiple punctures were an additional hindrance. However, Brajkovič is still eighth overall and Kessiakoff is still wearing the polka dot jersey.”

Haimar Zubeldia: “We didn’t see anything in the road but for sure something was there. It started happening at 100 meters before the top. That’s when we started seeing riders stop. What they did is so dangerous. You can get hurt so badly if you have a flat on the descent. We have unwritten rules in the peloton that when things happen that are out of our control and the entire race will be changed because of this experience, we slow down and make things right.”

Frank Schleck: “It was just some crazy fools throwing nails on the road. I don’t think there will be anything done about it [and it won’t be] possible to find the person who did it.”

Marc Madiot, FDJ-BigMat director: “Thibaut Pinot had a flat and Pierrick Fedrigo gave him his bike immediately. He was fortunate to be in the group of Cadel Evans, and they returned to the yellow jersey group.”

Matt White, Orica-GreenEdge director: “We’re obviously disgusted to learn that this happened. We were pretty lucky to have avoided punctures. We found tacks in tires at the finish but somehow had the good charmer to avoid flats. It’s disgraceful that people would do this sort of thing.”

Via Twitter:

Chris Horner: “Crazy day at the Tour with the tacks on the road - added a lot of stress and extra work near the end. 5 total flats for [Radioshack-Nissan] in a few km!”

Mark Cavendish: “What type of scumbag would put tacks on the road in front of the worlds biggest bike race?! One guy's crashed out with a broken collarbone now.”

Jens Voigt: “Time to send a note of my deepest respect to Cadel Evans for not giving up with 3 sabotage punctures today and waiting forever for a wheel.”

Chris Froome: “Sad to see some individuals trying to sabotage the race today by dropping tacks on the road. #notcool”

Levi Leipheimer: “Unfortunate crash with Robert Kiserlovski just after last GPM. I wish you a fast recovery Robert! Putting tacks on the road is criminal.”

Nicolas Roche: “Punctured on top of [the climb], bit of a panic at #tdf12, good work from @AG2RLAMONDIALE @mikaelcherel @BOUETMAXIME for a flat out descent!”


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