Team Sky’s performance manager Rod Ellingworth was following the Vuelta stage two summit finish on his mobile phone close to the top of the Alto d Monte da Groba when he started thinking “this is just the type of climb where some big name you wouldn’t have thought is going to crack.” As it turned out, one of those top contenders was Samuel Sanchez (Eusklatel-Euskadi). And another? Sky’s Sergio Henao.
Riding his first Grand Tour as a team leader, Henao lost nearly three minutes in around six kilometres after he suffered what Ellingworth said was “hunger knock. He simply forgot to eat enough and that was that.”
The 26-year-old was understandably “massively disappointed,” Ellingworth said. After Rigoberto Urán took Sky’s first ever podium finish in the Giro and Chris Froome captured the Tour, Henao was the rider Sky were hoping would taking their third Grand Tour top-three finish of 2013. It now looks very difficult, with Urán, once again, taking over as the top contender for the British squad - and Ellingworth prefers to take the positive out of Henao’s mistake, and look ahead.
“When Sergio realised, it was too late, but he was really disappointed and that’s good, isn’t it? He knows the team puts a lot in, realises what he’s done and he will now try and turn it around.”
“Top ten is still possible, five or six [in Madrid] would be really good. Top three is going to be very, very hard now.”
"Henao is not therefore necessarily going to lose his status as protected rider, although Urán will get a lot more focus. We cannot make any mistakes with him. But we will be keeping a close eye on Sergio too, and keep battling away with him, too.”
Urán was always plan B, “it will be like in the Giro. Yes, he lost time looking after Bradley [Wiggins], but maybe the gc guys wouldn’t have let him go away so easily when he did put in that attack [winning a mountain-top finish] and getting back that time, too. But anything can happen to one rider - a fall, a crash, whatever - so we want to have Sergio there too. And for the future, for the management, it’s about working out what we can do to make sure as much as possible that a situation like Sunday doesn’t happen again.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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