Shane Sutton: Bradley Wiggins's Tour de France withdrawal a massive blow
Last Updated: 01/06/13 1:16pm
Shane Sutton: Bradley Wiggins's long-term mentor
Team Sky Performance Advisor Shane Sutton admits Sir Bradley Wiggins's omission from the Tour de France this summer is a massive blow for the team, but has backed the reigning champion to battle back from the disappointment.
Team Sky made the announcement that Wiggins would not be defending his Tour de France title on Friday, stating that the 33-year-old has been suffering from an ongoing knee problem since his withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia on 18 May.
In the announcement, Sir Dave Brailsford stated Wiggins's absence would be 'a huge disappointment for everyone in the team' and Sutton has now backed up that admission.
Sutton is one of Wiggins's closest allies, having worked closely with him for over a decade in his dual role as British Cycling's Head Coach, as well as at Team Sky.
The 55-year-old revealed that the news had compounded a frustrating year for Wiggins, whose first goal of the season - the Giro - had also ended prematurely.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: "This is a great loss to Team Sky. They will have been weakened by the loss of Wiggins massively, whether he was there to win the Tour or play a support role as Froome did for him last year.
"It's a tough period for him right now but I'm sure he'll bounce back."
Prior to Wiggins's withdrawal, speculation had been rife over a power struggle within Team Sky over who would lead the team at the Tour de France.
Chris Froome had been all-but guaranteed that role before Wiggins's injury problems, and Sutton confessed that things were now much clearer heading into cycling's biggest bike race, which commences in Corsica on Saturday 29 June.
He added: "Team Sky will be weakened but I'm sure Froomey will be breathing a lot easier. It takes away that threat of your team-mate actually beating you, and I think he'll be really up for it now.
"Unfortunately you've got two of the best bike riders in the world on the same team and Froomey will be there thinking, 'This is my opportunity, I need to seize on it', and I'm sure he'll do well.
"Froome goes in as red-hot favourite to win the Tour and possibly the only guy that could have beaten him would have been Bradley."