Tour de France: Sanchez wins stage; Wiggins keeps lead

By Samuel Petrequin

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 15 2012 11:15 p.m. MDT

Bradley Wiggins of Britain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, rides in the pack during the 14th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 191 kilometers (118.7 miles) with start in Limoux and finish in Foix, France, Sunday July 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)of the Tour de France cycling race over 191 kilometers (118.7 miles) with start in Limoux and finish in Foix, France, Sunday July 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Associated Press

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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 two 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.

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 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 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.

Despite rain and cooler weather, the ascent was uneventful. Wiggins' teammates set the tempo at the front of the pack while the Briton's rivals did not dare a move.

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.

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