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The chance of Bradley Wiggins taking part in this year’s Tour de France appears more distant than before, with the Briton not starting Wednesday’s stage of the Tour de Suisse.
Wiggins crashed towards the end of Tuesday’s fourth stage and while he was able to remount and ride on to the finish, he and team medical staff decided that it was best for him to leave the race.
Wiggins said that he was sitting last man in the peloton in order to stay out of trouble but that the riders ahead of him jammed on suddenly. While he was able to slow, another rider rode into him, bringing him down.
“I’ve got quite a lot of swelling on the left-hand side of my right knee. It’s one of those things, I’ve been pretty fortunate this year with crashes,” he said in a team statement. “I probably could have started today but it’s best to play it safe and come home now.
“I really want to try to be ready for the Nationals next Thursday so I didn’t want to jeopardise that for the sake of pushing on and potentially doing more damage.”
Team doctor Steve Baynes gave his assessment of the situation. “Alongside the team’s physio, Nathan Thomas, I assessed Bradley last night, and again this morning,” he said.
“He’s suffered some pretty bad bruising on the left side of his right thigh muscle which is restricting his movement on the bike and obviously causing him discomfort.
“That’s going to require some treatment so, having spoken to Brad, we felt the best plan of action would be to withdraw him from the race and fly him back to the UK.”
Wiggins will hope for a quick recovery as he hopes to win the British national time trial championships next Thursday.
The 2012 Tour de France winner had hoped to return to the French race this year but told the BBC earlier this month that he had been told by the team that he would not be selected.
He said that he was surprised, given that he had said he would work for defending champion Chris Froome and because he had shown strong form in winning the Tour of California.
As a result he said that he would likely look to move to a different team next season.
“I think having missed it this year on the form I am in at the moment, the likelihood is I will probably miss out again next year,” he told the BBC. “So if I want to go back to the Tour, I might have to start accepting the reality that I will have to change teams.”
The news led to considerable criticism of Team Sky from fans and some media. Team Principal Dave Brailsford responded several days later, explaining how selection is worked out and also stating that no decision had been made.
“In Team Sky we have a set way of doing this,” Brailsford told Sky Sports in a video interview. “You analyse the demands of the event. You figure out how you think you can win this event.
“So you picture who has got the right attitude…if the guys are spending three and a half weeks, four weeks together in a bus like this, you want a tight-knit group. You need trust, you need camaraderie, you need all of that in a team to be able to compete for this race. We will be looking at all of that and piecing that jigsaw together.
“Ultimately, there is a selection panel which will sit after the Tour de Suisse, which I chair, and that selection panel will absolutely pick the team.”
Had Wiggins rode strongly in the Tour de Suisse it would have greatly improved his chance of being a call-up to the team. Withdrawing means he doesn’t have the chance to prove that he is riding well, and also means that he loses out on what would be an important preparation race prior to the French event.