The Belgian breakaway specialist has been left injuried after crashing while training Friday, and will be replaced by Frederik Frison.
“It is hard to describe how disappointed I am. This is one of the worst crashes I’ve ever experienced on the bike,” Wellens said. “I was training behind the scooter when both motorbike and I were surprised by a bump on the road.”
Lotto-Soudal has confirmed that Wellens has “road rash and deep wounds” on his knee, elbow and shoulder.
“This can never be healed in less than a week,” Wellens said Monday. Moreover, further recovery in the Tour de France is really impossible. In that race every stage is like a world championship.”
Wellens and teammate Thomas De Gendt are well known for their aggressive, opportunistic riding, with Wellens accumulating 15 days in the polka dot jersey of the mountains classification over his three Tour de France appearances to date. This year’s hilly, explosive parcours could have proven fertile hunting ground.
“This feels so bad. I was ready for the Tour,” Wellens said. “My goal was to win a stage. Especially the first stages suited me – tough stages in a region that I know so well. I did many times a recon of the stages to Nice, Sisteron and Orcières-Merlette.”
Lotto-Soudal’s full Tour de France team is:
Steff Cras, Jasper De Buyst, Thomas De Gendt, John Degenkolb, Caleb Ewan, Frederik Frison, Philippe Gilbert, Roger Kluge.
Greipel gets the call for Israel Start-Up Nation
While it was bad news for Wellens this weekend, veteran sprinter André Greipel had opposite fortunes, getting the nod to start his tenth-straight Tour de France – his first in Israel Start-Up Nation colors.
“This will be a great celebration as the first Tour for the Israeli team and with the first Israeli rider,” Greipel said. “The team can be proud.”
Greipel has ridden every Tour since 2011, taking 11 stages along the way. The 38-year-old marked himself out as one of the top sprinters of the era during a prolific streak from 2014 to 2016, which saw him taking four stages in 2015, including the iconic sprint on the Champs-Élysées.
Greipel will be likely to be acting as much as a road captain as an outright stage hunter this year, with the barrage of climbs posing an obstacle to the man nicknamed “the gorilla.” The mountainous route isn’t putting him off however.
“The mountains are always part of it … I just have to get over them.” he said. “It will be a challenge! I have never ridden an easy Tour.”
The team has been slowly releasing its line up slowly over the past week.
Other names so far confirmed are Nils Politt, Ben Hermans, Tom van Asbroeck, rookie Krists Neilands, sprinter Hugo Hofstetter, and Guy Niv, who is set to become the first Israeli to ride the Tour.
Dan Martin will likely be the eighth and final rider, provided he has recovered from his crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month.