Stijn Vandenbergh has been forced to withdraw from the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team for the Tour de France as he is suffering from a saddle sore. The Belgian will be replaced in the selection by Martin Velits, who will now line up alongside his brother Peter.
Vandenbergh had been struggling with the delicate injury in the wake of the Critérium du Dauphiné but he believed he was over the worst when he was listed in the original Omega Pharma-QuickStep team last week. However, after riding to 38th at the Belgian championships on Sunday, a race won by his leader Tom Boonen, Vandenbergh realised that he would have to withdraw from the Tour.
“I had this problem in the last ten days and it was almost solved," Vandenbergh said. "But Sunday's national championship exacerbated the problem. Together with the medical staff of the team, we decided not to take risks. This is why I will not participate in the Tour.”
Vandenbergh winner has ridden the Tour de France on two previous occasions. In 2009, he reached Paris in 95th place, while he finished outside the time limit on the stage to Station des Rousses.
“I am really sad, but I think there are no other solutions,” he said. “I have to think also about the team. I don't want to start, not knowing how I would be during the race. The Tour is a demanding race, and you need nine riders completely ready and healthy for the fight.”
While the 2007 Tour of Ireland winner misses out on La Grande Boucle, his replacement Martin Velits will make his first appearance in the race. The Slovak has completed the Vuelta a España in each of the past four seasons, although he was forced to abandon this year’s Giro d’Italia in the final week.
“It is a shame for Vandenbergh,” said Velits. "I can imagine how he is feeling now. I know how difficult it is to train and be ready for a race and then be forced not to participate because of an injury.
“I’m ready, I’m in good condition and I’m really looking forward to my first Tour de France."
Omega Pharma-QuickStep team for the Tour de France: Sylvain Chavanel, Kevin De Weert, Dries Devenyns, Bert Grabsch, Levi Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Jerome Pineau, Martin Velits, Peter Velits.