Tour de France: Leader Bradley Wiggins today praised as ‘Le Gentleman’ for his sportsmanship
TOUR de France leader Bradley Wiggins was today being praised as 'Le Gentleman' for neutralising the peloton on a 14th stage to Foix sabotaged by tacks.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was among 30 riders affected, puncturing three times as the bunch crested the Mur de Peguere, and saw his defence of the yellow jersey deflating before his eyes as Wiggins and others began to claim a significant lead.
The narrow road meant the team support cars could not reach the riders quickly and Australian Evans, who began the day three minutes 19 seconds behind Wiggins in fourth place, had an agonising wait as the first team-mate to join him at the summit, Briton Steve Cummings, also had a puncture.
Evans twice required further attention before eventually settling on a fresh tyre when his team car caught up with him.
Wiggins, who changed bikes on the descent due to a mechanical problem, promptly realised something was amiss and instructed his Team Sky colleagues to slow as the fragmented peloton regrouped and crossed the line more than 18 minutes behind stage winner Luis-Leon Sanchez.
It is etiquette not to attack when another rider suffers a puncture or mechanical, and French television hailed Wiggins for being the English sporting gentleman afterwards.
Sanchez (Rabobank) had been part of the day's 11-man escape which appeared unhindered by the tacks.
John Lelange, directeur sportif of Evans' BMC Racing team, said: "We came back with the whole group and Sky was really honest and didn't attack in the front.
"They were really fair. I went to (Team Sky sports director) Sean Yates at the end of the race to say I really appreciated it."
Wiggins was set to begin today's 158.5-kilometre 15th stage from Samatan to Pau in the maillot jaune for an eighth day and is seeking to become the first British winner of the Tour in Paris on Sunday.
The 32-year-old Londoner first claimed the race leader's yellow jersey on July 7 and on the Tour's first rest day, last Tuesday, was pictured drinking from a mug plastered with Union Flags.
The triple Olympic champion appeared to be paying homage to Britain's first leader of the Tour, Tom Simpson, who in 1962 was pictured as a true English gentleman, complete with bowler hat.
Following Saturday's 13th stage Wiggins suggested the peloton did not need a boss, or Le Patron, as in previous Tours, but it appears he has already claimed the respect of his peers.