Past master ... Cadel Evans during the Criterium du Dauphine. Photo: AFP
LUXEMBOURG: Cadel Evans has been given a major boost to his Tour de France hopes after Andy Schleck pulled out of this year's event due to injuries suffered in last week's Criterium du Dauphine race, according to his family.
Schleck was among the favourites for the 98th edition, which will begin in Liege, Belgium on June 30 and end in Paris on July 22, but will take no part after being diagnosed with a pelvis fracture in recent days.
The RadioShack climbing specialist, who has finished runner-up three times on the world's premier cycling event, had recently been crowned the 2010 champion following the disqualification of Spain's Alberto Contador for doping offences. Schleck's joy at finally securing the yellow jersey was, however, tempered by the injuries he suffered in a crash last Thursday at the Criterium, an eight-day race which is a major tune-up for the Tour.
During a 53-kilometre time trial a strong gust of wind literally picked Schleck and his bike up off the ground and dumped him at the side of the road. He continued, but complained of leg and back pain and despite beginning Saturday's sixth and penultimate stage he pulled out after 63km.
''He couldn't pedal any more,'' RadioShack sporting director Alain Gallopin told the race's official website.
''Since he crashed during the time trial, the whole right side of his body was hurting.''
Schleck returned to Luxembourg on Saturday and underwent scans at the beginning of the week that revealed the extent of his injuries.
It will be the first time the 27-year-old Schleck misses the race since he made his debut in 2008 with CSC. However it will be seen by many as the nadir to a season which has been one of his worst to date.
Schleck, 27, abandoned a number of top stage races, such as Paris-Nice, the Tour of Catalunya and the Dauphine, that would have been key to building his form for the Tour, and he has complained of ill health.
At the end of May he cut short a training camp on some key stages of the Tour de France to have treatment for three days at a clinic in Basel, Switzerland on a troublesome knee.
Schleck had planned to continue his training camp in the Pyrenees mountains as of Thursday, until hospital scans at the beginning of the week ended all hopes of competing in this year's race.
Schleck's older brother Frank, who finished third overall on last year's Tour, is currently racing the Tour of Switzerland and is likely to spearhead RadioShack's yellow jersey bid this summer.
The overall favourite, however, is Bradley Wiggins. He will aim to succeed Evans and thus become the first Briton to win the prestigious yellow jersey.