FOIX, France: Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez handed his stricken Rabobank team a welcome boost by soloing to victory on a memorable Tour de France 14th stage Sunday.
Sanchez, whose team has been decimated by crashes, had been part of an 11-man break which built a 16-minute lead on the peloton well before the end of the 191 km stage from Limoux to Foix.
And after counterattacking Frenchman Sandy Casar on the 38 km descent toward the finish, the Spaniard made a decisive move with just over 11 km to race.
Sanchez went on unchallenged to finish 47 seconds ahead of Slovakian Peter Sagan (Liquigas) with FDJ rider Casar in third and the main peloton, including race leader Bradley Wiggins, coming over the finish 18 minutes in arrears.
Although the early breakaway had built a significant lead that never looked under threat, they were given further room by the dramatics going on in their wake – and which showed Wiggins’ sense of fair play.
Defending champion Cadel Evans started the day three minutes 19 seconds adrift but could have finished it far worse off after falling victim to mechanical problems that left his hi-tech BMC team looking amateurish.
First, the Australian was left waiting at the summit of the last, brutal climb, the Peguere, for nearly two minutes after suffering a problem with his back wheel.
Looking flustered and gesturing in despair as he held his bike minus its back wheel, he got a replacement from a teammate only to require another wheel change on the descent, during which time the yellow jersey peloton had sat up and waited.
It left Evans in a desperate chase with his BMC team to catch Wiggins’ leading group, and he was glad once he did.
Wiggins, who took the yellow jersey after stage seven last Saturday, will take a 2min 5sec lead over teammate Chris Froome into Monday’s mainly flat stage from Samatan to Pau.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) is still third overall at 2min 23sec with Evans still fourth at 3min 19sec.