Froome adds to British sport woe, but will the Tour benefit?
Froome goes the way of Murray and Rooney, but the Tour de France could now come alive
Britain's woeful summer of sport has continued after defending champion Chris Froome was forced to pull out of the Tour de France following two falls during the fifth stage of the cycle race.
The Team Sky rider was already nursing cuts, bruises and a damaged wrist after a heavy fall on the fourth day of the Tour and was forced to retire after another two falls in wet conditions as the event headed through northern France and Belgium.
"Two days ago the sport was basking in the glory of a magical three days in the UK. How quickly things change," says the Daily Telegraph.
But it is not just cycling that has suffered this summer. Froome's misfortune caps a woeful few weeks for British sport in which:
- Andy Murray lost his Wimbledon crown
- The England football team was knocked out in the group stage of the World Cup
- The England and Welsh rugby teams were whitewashed by the All Blacks and South Africa
- The England cricket team followed up their Ashes humiliation with Test, ODI and Twenty20 defeats to Sri Lanka
- Mark Cavendish also crashed out of the Tour de France
But the Tour must go on, and it could represent an opportunity for another British rider, Geraint Thomas, to excel. But in the immediate aftermath of Froome's crash it was the absence of 2012 winner Bradley Wiggins that was most remarked upon.
"Froome's unfortunate departure is bound to raise questions about Brailsford's controversial decision to omit Wiggins in order to enable Sky to focus exclusively on the Kenyan-born 2013 Tour winner," says The Guardian, which notes that Sky "are scrabbling for what they can get, rather than in control as they were in 2012 and 2013".
Sky's gamble has not paid off, says Peter Muir, editor of Cyclist magazine. The team's approach was "all or nothing" with a squad built around Froome, and now he is out their "options look pretty thin".
But that could actually make the Tour more entertaining. "The racing should be more exciting now that more teams will feel they have a chance of victory, and it could also be an opportunity for the other Sky riders to shine," he explains. "With no leader to protect, the riders will be allowed to challenge for stage wins, get into breakaways and generally make life awkward for the new GC contenders.
"I can't help suspecting that this is exactly what the Tour organisers had planned when they added a brutal cobbles stage into the mix." ·