Sanchez takes 14th stage of Tour de France
Mon, 16 Jul 2012 3:27a.m.
Luis Leon Sanchez of Spain used his time trial experience to claim a solo victory in the 14th stage of the Tour de France as the three-week race entered the Pyrenees on Sunday.
Sanchez was among a group of five riders who broke away on the final ascent of the day, the Mur de Peguere.
He then made his decisive move 11 kilometers from the finish to claim his fourth Tour stage win.
Tour leader Bradley Wiggins and the other contenders were trailing more than 15 minutes behind the escapees.
The British rider is expected to retain the yellow jersey as the breakaway riders are lagging well behind in the overall standings.
Green jersey holder Peter Sagan of Slovakia finished second, 47 seconds behind Sanchez. Frenchman Sandy Casar was third in the same time.
Sanchez, who was hampered by a wrist injury during the first week of the race, crossed himself and pointed his fingers towards the sky as he crossed the finish line.
Sagan and two other riders managed to escape from the peloton after 35 kilometres on the descent of the first climb of the day, the second-category col du Portel. The 5.3-kilometer ascent split the bunch in two as RadioShack stars Andreas Kloden and Frank Schleck were dropped with a group of about 60 riders.
With Orica-GreenEdge cyclists organizing the chase in order to keep their sprinter Matt Goss in contention for the green jersey, Sagan, Sergio Paulinho and Steven Kruiswijk were kept on a leash and struggled to build up their lead.
But eight riders including Philippe 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 at the 54km mark.
With none of the eleven escapees posing a threat in the overall standings, they were given the freedom to continue and established a 10-minute lead at the 72-kilometer mark.
Sagan added 20 points to his green jersey tally by winning the intermediate sprint uncontested. The peloton's deficit was more than 14 minutes at the foot of the first-category Port de Lers, an 11.4-km climb with an average gradient of 7 percent.
Despite the rain coming down on the climb and a drop in temperature, the ascent was uneventful as Wiggins' teammates set the tempo at the front of the pack while the Briton's rivals did not dare a move.
Paulinho led the escapees over the summit 14 minutes ahead of the peloton reached the top of the mountain. After a tricky and challenging descent on slippery roads, they increased their lead to 15 minutes before the final ascent of the day - the Mur de Peguere - a punishing 9.3-kilometer climb with gradients as high as 18 percent on some sections.
Sanchez stayed on the wheel of Rabobank teammate Kruiswijk in the first kilometres of the ascent then accelerated on the steepest part of the climb.
Sanchez's turn knocked a few riders out of the leading group, with Casar, Gilbert, Sagan and Gorka Izaguirre the only ones able to stand the pace.
Casar attacked towards the summit and won the king of the mountains points at the top, with 38.5-kilometers to go.
Evans tried to break away from the main pack in the Mur de Peguere but his attack lacked punch as Wiggins and Nibali responded immediately. Wiggins' teammates Christopher Froome and Richie Porte then moved in front of the peloton to re-establish control.
Evans was struck by bad luck as he punctured at the top of the climb. The Australian rider found himself on his own and lost around two minutes before one of his teammates could reach him to give him his rear wheel.
Wiggins didn't attempt to use Evans' misfortunes to his advantage and asked the peloton to slow down to allow the defending champion to return to the pack.
Casar, Sagan, Izaguirre, Gilbert and Sanchez regrouped on the descent and increased their lead as the main contenders agreed a truce to wait for Evans.
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