We explain the physical role of nonperturbative saddle points of path integrals in theories without instantons, using the example of the asymptotically free two-dimensional principal chiral model (PCM). Standard topological arguments based on homotopy considerations suggest no role for nonperturbative saddles in such theories. However, the resurgence theory, which unifies perturbative and nonperturbative physics, predicts the existence of several types of nonperturbative saddles associated with features of the large-order structure of the perturbation theory. These points are illustrated in the PCM, where we find new nonperturbative "fracton" saddle point field configurations, and suggest a quantum interpretation of previously discovered "uniton" unstable classical solutions. The fractons lead to a semiclassical realization of IR renormalons in the circle-compactified theory and yield the microscopic mechanism of the mass gap of the PCM.