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Tour de France

Weight of the race rides on shoulders of Sky, BMC as Tour heads for the hills

The weight of the race is on Sky and BMC as the Tour heads for the hills

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TOMBLAINE, France (VN) — Sky is tipped as the team to control the Tour de France this year after its dominant and winning rides with Bradley Wiggins in the season’s early stage races. However, losing Kanstantsin Siutsou to a crash and seeing Richie Porte roll along the road Friday places doubt ahead of the race’s first mountain stage on Saturday in the Vosges.

He was part of a crash 25km from Friday’s finish that involved nearly half of the Tour peloton. Other cyclists came off worse — Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) abandoned. Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) also abandoned, having lost 13 minutes.

The weight is on the shoulders of Sky and BMC Racing now more than ever.

Sky helped Wiggins to a first in cycling this year, a unique triple crown with victories at Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné. Siutsou, Porte and Danny Pate were the only helpers with Wiggins in all three races. Pate failed to receive the Tour call-up and Siutsou abandoned with a broken tibia. Porte continues, but with cuts and bruises.

“Richie crashed three times. He crashed in the neutral [zone], crashed in a roundabout and then he got caught in that big crash. In one way it’s a bad thing, in another way, he’s got them all out of the way!” said general manager David Brailsford on Friday.

“He’s lost some skin off his knee and back, but it looks superficial. I don’t think there are any broken bones or anything. I’m sure it will be fine. He’s a very important for Brad.

Defending champion Cadel Evans came through unscathed with his BMC Racing teammates. BMC may help Sky as both teams have riders in favorable positions today. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) are also in good positions.

Others, including Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) might try to make up time. Sky will need to be alert over the weekend.

“It might make it calmer because the responsibility will rely on three or four teams. Some of the good climbing guys will think, ‘Well, I have nothing to lose now. I need to animate the race and try to get something back,'” said Brailsford.

“When these things happen, it changes the dimension of the race in several different ways.”

Wiggins followed teammate Christian Knees to the front three to four minutes before the crash occurred. As with Thursday, the team aimed to position Mark Cavendish while mostly keeping Wiggins near the front.

“If you want to compete for this race, you can’t sit back and passively go and try to win the Tour de France,” Brailsford said. “You go to get on the front foot and be aggressive. We’ve seen that today [Friday] and that’s just going to have to continue.”

Sky dominated the recent Dauphiné, protecting Wiggins lead after stage 1. Brailsford said the team is going to continue to be aggressive, but just how possible remains to be seen with Siutsou gone and Porte scraped.