Tour De France: Andy Schleck's Withdrawal Leaves Team in Tatters

Will ProtheroeContributor IIIJune 13, 2012

LIEGE, BELGIUM - APRIL 22:  Andy Schleck of Luxembourg and Radioshack-Nissan looks on at the start of the 98th Liege-Bastogne-Liege cycle road race on April 22, 2012 in Liege, Belgium.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images).  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

It has been announced today that 2010 Tour De France champion Andy Schleck will not be able to ride in this year's race after suffering a broken pelvis.

The Luxembourg-born rider suffered the fracture while riding in last week's Criterium du Dauphine. Schleck crashed on the roads of the individual time trial. He managed to grit his way through the following stage before abandoning the following day.

The news was announced by Schleck in a press conference in Luxembourg earlier today, where the dejected cyclist told of how he heard the news:

Yesterday, when I came out of the MRI scan and they told me the news, my world fell apart... I won't win the 2012 Tour de France, I won't even be in it.

His doctor, Torsten Gerich, said the fracture Schleck has would usually take "four to six weeks" to heal, and cycling in the Tour was not an option.

Schleck told reporters that he hoped he would be back in the saddle for the Olympic road race which takes place on July 28.

The announcement leaves only two favourites for the Tour which starts at the end of the month. Britain's Bradley Wiggins, who was victorious in the Dauphine, and reigning champion Cadel Evans now appear to be the two strongest contenders for a win in Paris.

Neither Wiggins or Evans are considered to be in the same league as Schleck when it comes to climbing, so his withdrawal will be a relief for both of them.

The move now leaves Schleck's RadioShack-Nissan team in disarray only weeks before the start of the race.

Could Fuglsang (pictured right alongside Schleck) be the answer?
Could Fuglsang (pictured right alongside Schleck) be the answer?Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

After preparing for months for a race in which they would be riding for the yellow jersey, there may be a temptation to replace Andy with another rider who has a chance of a high overall finish.

Andy Schleck's brother Frank would be the obvious replacement, but after a grueling ride in the Giro d'Italia in which Frank abandoned in the 15th stage after experiencing pain in his shoulder, it may be too long of a race for Andy's brother.

The team could get behind the aging legs of veteran German Andreas Klöden. However, it has been six years since the former T-Mobile rider has finished on the podium in Paris.

The team has other capable riders in its ranks including Yaroslav Popovych, Haimar Zubeldia and Jakob Fuglsang.

Of these riders, the most interesting prospect is 27-year-old Dane Jakob Fuglsang. Fuglsang was set to be the team leader for RadioShack-Nissan at the Giro earlier this year. Following an injury at the Tour de Romandie, Fuglsang had to pull out.

This could be the perfect opportunity for the Dane to break out onto the Grand Tour stage. He was victorious in the Tour of Luxembourg earlier this year, and has had success in stage races before.

This year's Tour has an emphasis on time trials and Fuglsang is solid against the clock, becoming the Danish Time Trial Champion in 2010.

Schleck's injury may mean that the team has to shift its expectations entirely and look for stage wins instead of a high overall position for its riders. They still possess an extremely strong squad, and if one of their climbers can get away in a big breakaway then the podium may be back on the cards.