ASO angry over Porte’s shift to Tirreno to replace ailing Froome

Tour de France organizer angered after Sky moves the defending Paris-Nice champion to Italy to replace Chris Froome, who is dealing with back inflammation

PARIS (AFP) — Tour de France champion Chris Froome has pulled out of next week’s Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy and his Sky team has replaced the Kenyan-born rider with Australian Richie Porte.

But that move was met by anger from Paris-Nice organizer ASO, as Porte had been due to begin the defense of his “Race to the Sun” title on Sunday.

Froome is suffering from inflammation in his back and hasn’t raced since winning February’s Tour of Oman.

“Chris has suffered a slight inflammation to the sacroiliac joint in the lower back. As a precaution we have chosen to withdraw him from next week’s Tirreno-Adriatico so he can focus on recovering and preparing for the Volta a Catalunya,” said Sky doctor Alan Farrell via the team’s website.

Sky’s decision to shift Porte from Paris-Nice, which has no individual time trial or mountain finish, to Tirreno-Adriatico, which more suits his capabilities with two time trials (one team and one individual) and two summit finishes, was met with anger from ASO, the company that runs the Tour de France.

“We find it cavalier to have the reigning champion pull out just before the start,” said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme. “We were told that to win points for the world rankings, the Tirreno was more favorable (to Porte) due to its technical characteristics and the presence of an (individual) time trial.

“We stick by the Paris-Nice route, without a time trial for the first time since 1955 and without a long enough summit finish. Everything was done so that the race could be fought for everywhere, just as much on the flats as in the more hilly stages.

“We wanted to move away from stereotypes and we’re going to continue on this path. Bearing in mind it’s the riders who decide, we’ll keep proposing more open courses. I’m convinced it will be a magnificent race.”

Sky won the last two editions of Paris-Nice, with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Porte last year. Froome finished second to Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, who is racing
Paris-Nice this year, in last year’s Tirreno-Adriatico.