Chris Froome skipped the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and left Sky with a six-man team in the classic today. Sky’s captain arrived in Liège last night, but suffers from a chest cold.
“Chris is all right, but if he would’ve ridden today the exertion would’ve aggravated it,” Sky team principal David Brailsford said. “So, we had to decide if we wanted to aggravate it or let him rest until Romandie. We decided that, while this is an amazing race, it’s better to get on top of it rather than to keep aggravating it and let it linger on.”
Pete Kennaugh also skipped the Belgian monument. Brailsford explained that Kennaugh had been feeling “empty.” He added, “When someone is like that, there’s no point in pushing on. You just have to get him right.”
Froome will travel from Belgium to Switzerland to defend his title in the Tour of Romandy stage race. The five-day race starts on Tuesday with a prologue time trial.
Romandy will mark Froome’s first race back and only third race of the year. He raced and won the Tour of Oman in February but due to back pain, missed the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March. His last race was the Tour of Catalonia, where he placed sixth overall.
He just returned from a high-altitude camp in Tenerife on Sunday. He spent the week in Monaco but he had problems breathing on the eve of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“It’s an inflammation of the airway so every time you make a violent effort, it just inflames it,” Brailsford said. “It’s disappointing but the right call.”
The call leaves Sky with only six men in Liège, where the 100th edition of the race started in front of Belgium’s king. Richie Porte leads the team.
Sky also was unable to field a full team to support Bradley Wiggins this week at Italy’s Giro del Trentino. Ian Boswell supported Wiggins, but he also had to rush from the Amstel Gold Race and back north for today’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He was the only rider to ride the rare triple.
“The problem is that we’ve had all the illness and crashes this year, more than you’d expect. In the last couple of years, we’ve had proportionally less than you’d expect to have. It’s like we’ve saved them all for once!” Brailsford explained.
“We have Jonathan Tiernan-Locke who’s not racing, Sergio Henao and his cousin have gone back to Colombia. CJ Sutton has a nasty hole in his knee after his crash. Chris [Froome] who’s ill. Pete Kennaugh is ill. And we have three race rosters to fill.
“It’s not just about being able to field a team today, it’s Romandie next week and the Tour of California. If you start chopping and changing too much, you find yourself in a difficult spot.”
We pick out the likely contenders for Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege
We take a look ahead to the final Spring Classic of the 2014 season: route, teams, TV guide, past winners