Richie Porte has been withdrawn from next month's Giro d'Italia and will focus on helping Chris Froome retain his Tour de France title.
The 29-year-old Australian rider was poised to challenge for first place at the year's first Grand Tour but his early season has been disrupted by illness, forcing him to quit early in both the Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya.
These setbacks have had an unfavourable impact on Porte's preparations and Sky have chosen to focus the rider's efforts on the summer's Tour de France, Sky Sports reports.
“Richie was always going to ride the Tour de France this year but this now means that he can fully focus on being in the best possible shape without having the added challenge of having to ride the Giro as well,” Team Sky’s Head of Performance Support, Tim Kerrison, said.
"He played an invaluable role in our Tour wins in 2012 and 2013 and we want him to do the same again this year.”
Porte will now miss the opportunity to lead Team Sky for the first time in a Grand Tour and challenging rivals Nairo Quintana, Joaquim Rodriguez and fellow Australian Cadel Evans for the maglia rosa.
Chris Froome, however, will be happy to have his chief lieutenant by his side at the Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine, two of the major races in preparation for the Tour de France.
Porte's omission should also mean he will head for TdF better rested not having to ride the over 3400km Giro d'Italia route, including as many as nine summit finishes.
The Australian was widely lauded when his effort helped preserve Froome's lead on the l'Alpe d'Huez stage in last year's Tour de France. Then, on the second ascent, Porte fell back to the team car to fetch gels for Froome, close to cracking, and shepherded the later winner to the finish line.
Sergio Henao would have been most likely to lead the Sky Giro team instead of Porte but the Colombian has been temporarily withdrawn from racing while anomalous doping test results are investigated. Team Sky have yet to announce their team leader for the Giro.
Sir Bradley Wiggins will ride the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and the Paris – Roubaix on Sunday. Geraint Thomas, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Gabriel Rasch and Luke Rowe will join him at Paris – Roubaix.
“We had a good race at Flanders and the team rode well,” Team Sky Sport Director, Servais Knaven, said. “Of course, we would have liked to have been on the podium but we had some crashes along the way, so Geraint’s eighth place finish was good considering what happened during the race.”
“Now we look ahead to Paris-Roubaix. We will see how everybody is feeling over the next few days and then decide our plans for the race. We have a lot of riders who are racing well so it’s a nice position to be in,” he added.
Later, 22-25 April, Wiggins to lead a team of eight at the four-day Giro del Trentino in Italy.
Meanwhile, a female spectator, who was involved in a crash with Garmin-Sharp's Johan Vansummeren in Sunday's Tour of Flanders, remains in intensive care in hospital and is in critical but stable condition, cyclingnews reports.
The high-speed crash took place after around 60km and footage of the incident shows Vansummeren hitting the 65-year-old woman, who was standing on a raised island in the road.
Vansummeren was briefly hospitalised but was lucky and escaped with stitched eye. He was clearly emotional about the incident.
"It’s a crash. How it happened? I don’t want to into detail," Vansummeren said. "It happened at a roundabout but what and how doesn't matter now. It only leads to talking about guilt and the only thing that matters now is that this woman gets better."
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