While Lance Armstrong again steals the headlines, a story of real significance has emerged that has implications for this year’s Tour de France.
In the shadow of yet more doping allegations against Armstrong, Tour contender Andy Schleck has announced on the team Radioshack-Nissan-Trek website that he will not be competing in this year’s race courtesy of a fractured pelvis sustained in the Stage 4 time trial of last week’s Criterium du Dauphine.
While the injury led to Schleck withdrawing from the race on Stage 6, the true magnitude of the injury wasn’t apparent, and it was assumed that he would recover it time for the Tour.
Initially, it was reported that he had aggravated his pre-existing knee injury; the sacral bone injury to the pelvis came to light earlier this week. ABC news (Aus) reports that according to Schleck’s doctor, Torsten Gerich, the injury normally takes four to six weeks to heal, and during that time, Schleck can’t get on a bike.
Brother Frank Schleck is expected to step up to lead the team, but the Schlecks are a double act—formidable together, but individually vulnerable.
There is little interest in the cycling community in more doping allegations against Armstrong—we’ve been there too many times before; it’ll be a story if they convict him—but the loss of Schleck has effectively reduced this year’s Tour to a two-horse race.
And that’s a big story.
Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans are now—in betting circles, at least—the only possible contenders for a Tour victory.
In a race that has 24 teams and over 200 riders, bookmakers have installed Sky rider Wiggins as an almost even-money favourite and have Evans at 2/1 odds.
Team Sky has divided loyalties, with Wiggins and Manx Missile Mark Cavendish both strong contenders for the Yellow and Green Jerseys respectively.
BMC, on the other hand, is built to support Evans to win the Tour de France.
Wiggins established his lead in the Criterium du Dauphine in the individual time trial, but Evans took time out of Wiggins on two of the final three stages through the mountains. Evans should have the power and the support to do so again through the Alps and Pyrenees.
Whether that will be sufficient to overcome any gains out of the two ITTs in this year’s Tour will be interesting to see, although Evans may not have been at the peak of his form during the Criterium, choosing instead to focus his preparation on the Tour.
Regardless, the race is 3,500km long (~2,200mi), and a lot can happen. Getting caught in a crash, having one bad day in the saddle or even the loss of key teammates can leave the best laid plans in absolute tatters.
I’ll feel confident predicting the winner of the Tour de France as the Yellow Jersey heads down the Champs Elysees on July 22.
Whoever that may be.