today with the report that 2010 champ (by way of an Alberto Contador positive drug test) Andy Schleck is out of the 2012 Tour de France. Schleck, who has been amongst the favorites over the past few years, suffered a spinal injury in the Criterium du Dauphine which will keep him off the bike for at least five weeks and may prevent him from riding in the Olympics as well.
At a press conference earlier today it was confirmed that Schleck is suffering from a spinal fracture that makes it very painful to ride at the moment. It is believed that even if he is able to ride by the time the Olympics start, he won't be in any condition to compete with the world's best, many of which will be coming off the Tour. The Olympic race is one of the earliest events, starting on July 28, exactly one week after the Tour champ is crowned on the Champs Elysees.
Over the past few years Schleck, who rides with his brother Frank on Team RadioShack-Nissan Trek, has become one of the best riders in professional cycling. He has a combination of skills, that includes formidable climbing abilities, that have put him on the podium in Paris on several occasions. But his inability to ride a consistent time trial has hurt him in the past as riders like Contador and last year's winner Cadel Evans have much more skill in that discipline.
Schleck's withdrawal from the race will really make it a wide-open affair. Evans will be back of course, but Contador is serving out a suspension and won't be in the peloton either. We could possibly see a number of fresh faces at the front of the pack this year, and as always I can't wait for the race to start in a few weeks time.
My selection for a rider to watch is Bradley Wiggins and I felt that way before his great showing at the Criterium. I feel that if he stays healthy, he will be amongst the leaders in the Tour this year.