Chris Froome's departure from this year's Tour de France does not mean that the wheels have fallen off the Sky wagon says team manager Dave Brailsford. Despite losing their team leader so early in the race, he believes that the remaining riders can re-focus and still target the general classification.
"On a day like today, there are always going to be some winners and losers. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and that's sport," Brailsford told the media who had swarmed the team bus. "Part of sport is being able to refocus. We know that in sport the goal posts will move and life's not fair. You just have to get on with it, deal with it and move on. There's not point in dwelling with emotion, you've just got to move in sport and that's what we'll do."
The defending champion crashed twice during the 155.5km stage from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. The first left him with only some minor cuts and abrasions. He fell on his right side during the second and looked to be holding his wrist as if he'd injured it. He was also caught up in a crash during the fourth stage, injuring his left wrist. He was given the all clear to race, but there is speculation that he began the day with a broken wrist.
Froome later admitted in a tweet that the injury had contributed to his two crashes. "Devastated to have to withdraw from this year's TDF. Injured wrist and tough conditions made controlling my bike near to impossible."
Froome will now have to reassess his season, and Brailsford confirmed that the team may send him to the Vuelta a España, where he will face the Movistar pairing of Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, plus Joaquim Rodríguez. They did the same with Bradley Wiggins in 2010, when he broke his collarbone early on and he went onto finish third at the Vuelta. Incidentally, Froome finished second at that year's Vuelta.
Richie Porte will now take leadership of the team. The Australian also crashed during the stage, but was brought back up by his teammate and Classics rider Geraint Thomas. Porte lost just over two minutes to the stage winner Lars Boom (Belkin), but now sits in seventh, 1:54 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He has had a difficult start to the year, being forced quit or skip a large number of races due to illness and bad form, including the Giro d'Italia - which he was destined to be team leader.
Brailsford has confidence in Porte's ability to deliver the goods and says the lack of racing could play into his hands. "He's in great shape he's had a slower start to the seasons than normal and he's fresh. He's come into form at the right time and he's climbing really well," said Brailsford.
"The reason that we decided to take him as our second lead rider is because of his climbing ability at the moment. Today was a big challenge for Richie, getting him over those cobbles, and I think he did ever so well."
Despite seeing his race leader being unceremoniously dumped from the race during the torrential conditions that drenched the stage, Brailsford was highly complimentary of the stage and yellow jersey Vincenzo Nibali. "It was exciting, you've got to say that," he said.
"It might not have worked out for us, but when you watch the way that Nibali rode and what he did today, that's pretty impressive. Fair play to him, I thought he was just unbelievable. To ride away from Cancellara and Sagan on the cobbles that was exciting and I think that we will remember that for a long time."
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