Australian cyclist Cadel Evans was stopped during the 14th stage of the Tour de France when his tyres were punctured by carpet tacks thrown onto the course by vandals from the crowd. According to an article in the Daily Mail, the tacks caused more than thirty punctures for riders during the final climb of the Mur de Peguere. In the article it was reported that the Competitions Director of the Tour, Jean-Francois Pescheux, described the tacks as “the kind you find in mattresses or carpets” and stated that a number of competitors found three or four of these in their tyres upon inspection. The article reported that Bradley Wiggins, one of the leading riders in this event made the following statement about the incident:
“What can you do? It’s something we can’t control. It’s sad but those are the type of things we have to put up with as cyclists. If that happened in a football stadium or wherever, you’d be arrested and seen on CCTV. But we are out there quite vulnerable at times, very close to the public on climbs.”
Wiggins had demonstrated his sportsmanship by waiting for Evans to replace his tyres and encouraging the other leading riders to do the same stating, “no-one wants to benefit from someone else’s misfortune.” Consequently, Wiggins and other competitors crossed the finish line more than 18 minutes behind Spanish rider Luis Leon Sanchez who won the stage.
The incident raises the issue of safety risk to competitors in sports like cycling where the venues are not enclosed and security technology such as CCTV cannot easily be used to prevent acts of sabotage. The close proximity of spectators to the race also allows for potential interference with the track. The Daily Mail article noted that the event organiser, (Amaury Sport Organisation) has cars that drive ahead of competitors to remove any obstructions from the road and check that course conditions are safe. However, it may be necessary to have additional drivers ride in between groups to ensure that new obstacles do not appear on the road during the course of the race. Options for improving security may also need to be considered for events of this nature.
According to NBC Sports, the organisers have asked the French Police to formally investigate the incident.