It was a battle that seemed straight out of Mario Kart. Nearly 30 bikers flipped over their handlebars and slammed to the asphalt during Sunday’s stage of the Tour de France, but this was no fault of the fierce competition or rough roads. Someone was sabotaging the cycling race.
Indeed, several bikers suffered flat tires, punctured by a veritable minefield of small carpet tacks on the approach to the steepest climb of the race’s 14th stage, the Mur de Peguere. Reigning champion Cadel Evans, who was making a break for the front of the pack, found his tires flattened three separate times by the tacks. “Karma hopefully comes around,” Evans told the Associated Press.
But while the attack symbolized the worst in fan behavior, it also brought out the best in the competitors – some of the riders who weren’t punctured by the tacks slowed down to wait for their rivals. British cyclist Bradley Wiggins was praised for halting the main pack and waiting for Evans to get fixed up. “We’re out there, quite vulnerable at times, very close to the public on climbs,” Wiggins told the AP. Race directors praised his sportsmanship.
The attack did claim one biker, though: Croatian cyclist Robert Kiserlovski broke his collarbone after crashing his bike and had to drop out of the Tour. Though race officials don’t know who was behind the tack attack – and they’re hardly optimistic about finding the people responsible — they expressed some relief that it came as bikers climbed the hill. “This could have had terrible consequences on a descent,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. “This is dangerous and stupid behavior.” In fact the organizers seem more outraged than the riders, who have seen this sort of thing before. “This has happened to me before, two times in Spain,” Evans said after the accident. “That’s why I don’t race in Spain very often.”
“There’s nothing stopping more of that sort of stuff happening,” said Wiggins, whose arm was burned last week by a spectator holding a firework too close to the course. ”It’s sad.”