A nervy third stage in this year's Tour de France could prove costly to the hopes on Britain's Bradley Wiggins as his teammate Kanstantsin Siutsou was forced to withdraw following a crash.
Liquigas superstar Peter Sagan took home the stage at a canter, blowing away his rivals in the final sprint to win ahead of Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Siutsou was involved in a mass pile-up 50km from the end of today's stage into Boulogne-sur-Mer. The 29-year-old suffered a broken leg in the crash which also caused the withdrawal of Movistar's Jose Joaquin Rojas.
Wiggins was also held up by a crash in the closing seconds but was not injured and finished with the same time as his rivals.
The Belorussian's withdrawal puts Dave Brailsford's selection under an increasing spotlight. The Team Sky boss made the bold decision to bring World Champion Mark Cavendish and lead-out man Bernard Eisel to the Tour.
This left just five riders serving as lieutenants to Wiggins in the mountains of which Siutsou was a vital member. Brailsford tried to put a positive spin on the incident after the race, saying,
He's a very good climber so he can do that first part in the key mountain stages. But to be honest the climbing department, as it were, is probably where we're at our strongest.
There is no doubt that with Chris Froome and Michael Rogers in the team, Wiggins is unlikely to be isolated in the mountains. However, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Christian Knees and Richie Porte are all unlikely to be of assistance when the mountains really kick in.
Siutsou has accompanied Wiggins in all of his impressive victories this season, at Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and at the Criterium du Dauphine.
If Wiggins does win the Tour then the decision to take Cavendish will be vindicated. However, if he doesn't, then Team Sky will have blown a golden opportunity to take home the yellow jersey.
While it is bad news for Wiggins, the withdrawal was good news for Tour rival Cadel Evans who told reporters after the stage,
You need to be firing on all cylinders in this race. To be one man down is not an advantage that's for sure.
There is a long way left to go in the race and Wiggins is still the favourite, but Siutsou's withdrawal will have Team BMC sleeping soundly tonight.
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