FOIX, France — Crashes, falls, fractures — Bradley Wiggins has seen it all. Now add tacks and nails to list. Still, nothing can break his stranglehold on the Tour de France.
On a day of sabotage in the Pyrenees, Wiggins had luck on his side. He avoided the chaos and spent another trouble-free stage as his Sky team controlled his main rivals to protect his yellow jersey.
At least 30 riders were disrupted by tire punctures at the top of the final climb after tacks and small nails were tossed on the road. Tour officials asked police to investigate.
Defending champion Cadel Evans was caught in the havoc. He had to wait three times for assistance. He lost nearly two minutes at one point before teammates arrived and gave the former world champion a rear wheel.
But Wiggins honored cycling etiquette by not attempting to capitalize on Evans’s misfortune. He urged the peloton to slow down to allow Evans to return to the pack. Wiggins and Evans finished in the same time — 18 minutes, 15 seconds behind Luis Leon Sanchez of Spain, who won the 119-mile, 14th stage between Limoux and Foix.
This was the first day of racing in the Pyrenees, and Wiggins kept his overall lead of 2:05 over Sky teammate Christopher Froome. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy was third, 2:23 off the pace while Evans remains fourth, 3:19 behind.
After crashing out of the race with a broken collarbone last year, Wiggins has been enjoying the Tour so far with the help of a team dedicated to his quest for cycling’s most revered prize.
With only two big mountain stages remaining before the race ends in Paris next Sunday, and a long time trial where Wiggins is expected to blow his rivals apart, the former Olympic track champion looks all but guaranteed to become the first Brit to win the Tour.
Yet, he is well aware of the dangers that can arise anywhere.
‘‘What can you do? It’s something we can’t control,’’ Wiggins said, referring to the sabotage that could have led to a reshuffle of the standings.
‘‘There’s nothing stopping more of that sort of stuff happening. It’s sad. Those are the type of things we have to put up with as cyclists. I think people take that for granted sometimes, just how close they can get to us. If that happened in a football stadium, or wherever, you’d be arrested.’’
From time to time, stray dogs or photograph-snapping fans get hit by speeding riders. On Friday, Wiggins was hit on the arm and received minor burns from a flare waved by a spectator. Three years ago, Oscar Freire and Julien Dean were hit by pellets from an air rifle.
Astana rider Robert Kiserlovski dropped out of the race after breaking his collarbone in an accident related to the tacks. Wiggins escaped although he did change bikes in the final descent.
Evans, his chances of winning all but gone, lost the Spanish Vuelta three years ago after being delayed by a wheel change during the 13th stage.
‘‘That’s the way things go in life. Karma hopefully comes around,’’ Evans said. ‘‘I couldn’t see [the tacks] on the road. It happened to me three times and at crucial moments.
“This has happened to me before, two times in Spain, that’s why I don’t race in Spain very often. Sorry for the good Spanish people and my Spanish friends and people in Spain who support me. But there’s a few people that just take things too far.’’