Team Sky suffered its first major setback at this year's Tour de France when Kanstantsin Siutsou abandoned the race after crashing 140km into the stage to Boulogne-sur-Mer. The Belarussian was taken to hospital in Boulogne, where an x-ray revealed he had a fracture in the tibia bone of his left leg. Team director Sean Yates described losing Siutsou as "a major blow because he's an integral part of the team".
"There was a massive pile-up and he was at the bottom of it," said Yates. "It's been a stressful day. Every day at the Tour is stressful, but days like this, when you've got loads of crashes and you've got to stop and change bikes, are particularly bad."
Yates said that the seven riders now left to support Bradley Wiggins' challenge for the yellow jersey will have to share Siutsou's duties between them. "We've got a lot of strong guys, and we'll just have to deal with it. It won't impact on the tactics because the tactic is simply to win the race and that means Bradley has to be up there with the best and ride fantastic time trials. It will just impact on the workload of the other seven members of the team."
Asked whether that will mean Mark Cavendish taking on some of those duties, Yates said, "Yes, that does mean we will see Mark getting bottles and so on. I'm sure he won't be allergic to that. He's always a great teammate."
Team boss Dave Brailsford gave some more detail about Siutsou's precise role within the team. "He's a versatile rider, a very strong rider, he's one of the key workers in the team, he does a lot of work getting bottles and so on, and he works very well in the mountains. On the mountain stages, he's there on the first couple of mountains. Thankfully we've got a lot of strength in depth in the mountains so I'm not sure we'll suffer too much there," he said.
Brailsford was sanguine about the loss of a key team member. "I think you have to take incidents like this on the chin. There's an element of risk in what they do. The Tour de France is inherently risky, and it's a question of staying upright. Bradley's done that again today, though. He's got through. It's another boxed ticked and that's the way you've got to approach it.
"I feel neutral about the day as a whole. I think events have balanced themselves out. What I saw today is that Mick Rogers has got good legs, Froomey's got good legs, Eddy's certainly got good legs and Brad's got good legs. It's a disappointment to lose Kosta but it's not the end of the world either."
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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