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Froome eyes Vuelta as British cycling suffers following UK Grand Depart

Chris Froome will now target the Vuelta a Espana after crashing out of the Tour de France; only two British riders remain at a Tour that started in the UK

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ARRAS, France (AFP) – Chris Froome will now target the Vuelta a Espana after crashing out of the Tour de France, his Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said.

Froome’s defense of the title he won in Paris a year ago ended painfully on Wednesday when he crashed out of the fifth stage.

It was always likely to be a complicated stage as there were seven cobbled sections totalling 13km to negotiate, but Froome hit the deck twice before even reaching the pavé.

Visibly in pain, he climbed into his team car after the second fall and his Tour was over.

“It’s just unfortunate for Chris, he’s worked ever so hard to be in good shape and really believed he could win this race,” said Brailsford. “But I think he’ll be back and that’s part of this sport. You get knocked down, you get back and you go again. We will, I’m sure, see him in the Vuelta and go from there.”

The Vuelta, in which Froome was second in 2011 and fourth in 2012, begins on August 23 in Jerez de la Frontera.

Froome’s abandonment from the Tour sent British cycling to a new low following two years of unbridled success. He became the second high-profile Briton to crash out of this year’s Tour after sprint ace and former world champion Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish had been hotly tipped to win Saturday’s opening stage, which finished in his mother’s home town. It was also hoped he would get back to his previous all-conquering ways after winning just two stages on last year’s Tour. But he caused a spill in the sprint finish in Harrogate and separated his shoulder, pulling out before the start of Sunday’s second stage. His Omega Pharma-Quick Step team later revealed he would need an operation and will be out for six weeks.

Already there had been questions asked when only four Britons lined up at the start of the 101st edition of the Grand Boucle, and the second Tour to start in Britain.

That leaves only Geraint Thomas of Sky and Orica GreenEDGE’s Simon Yates still in the race.

Thomas will play a vital role in helping Sky’s new leader Richie Porte’s attempt to win the Tour title for the team for a third straight year, but Yates, a neo-pro in his Tour debut, has so far been anonymous.

Sky team manager Dave Brailsford said humbly after Wednesday’s stage: “On a day like today you know there’s going to be some winners and there’s going to be some losers. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and I think you’ve got to lose in a good way and win in a good way.”

It’s all a far cry from the last two years in which Bradley Wiggins made history by becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France in 2012. What’s more, he did it in a British team and then went on to lead Britain to a hugely successful Olympic Games in cycling as he won time trial gold. Britain won eight gold medals on the track and road combined while no other country managed more than one.

A year later Froome made it a British and Sky double at the Tour as he succeeded the injured Wiggins as champion.

With this year’s Tour starting in Britain it had led many to suggest the country had become the new centre of the cycling world.

Brailsford himself said before the Tour that Britain had become “a cycling nation.”

Yet Britain won only two gold medals at this year’s world track championships. The Sky team has also been much for its policy of focusing almost entirely on the Tour de France and ignoring to a large extent staple and historic races such as the Spring Classics.

They went some way to correcting that this year as Thomas had top eight finishes at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, where Wiggins also came in ninth.

Yet Sky didn’t help themselves either by leaving national icon Wiggins out of its Tour team after he won the Amgen Tour of California. It may have been the right decision as the charismatic and temperamental Wiggins could have distracted attention from the team’s primary aim of winning the race with Froome. With Froome now out, Sky will turn to Porte, an Australian, as its leader.