Belgian rider Tom Boonen will miss the Tour de France because of a knee injury, his Quick Step team announced on Friday. The Belgian champion will also be unable to ride in Sunday's race at Louvain, which he won last year.
The 29-year-old, injured last month in the Tour of California, was involved in a mass crash on the fourth stage of the Tour of Switzerland last week when he damaged his left knee.
"After three days of rest, I went out training yesterday (Thursday) – for about five hours on the Louvain route", said Boonen, who missed the 2008 Tour because of a cocaine problem.
"The pain in the knee was there the whole time. During the last hour of training I had to stop several times. It is something that started after my fall in California and got worse after the fall in Switzerland," he explained. "I am very disappointed for the team, the sponsors and the spectators – particularly as the Tour is passing through Belgium."
The Belgian Quick Step team admitted it was a major blow: "It is terrible news for us," said team manager Patrick Lefevere, who will name Boonen's replacement on Monday after the national championships. Boonen has won six stages of the Tour de France and took the green jersey in the 2007 edition.
Injured Haussler ruled out of Tour de France
German rider Heinrich Haussler of the Cervelo team has been forced to pull out of the Tour de France – starting next week – because of a knee injury, his team confirmed on Saturday.
Haussler, who won a stage on the Tour at Colmar last year, picked up the injury on the Tour of the Algarve in Portugal at the start of the season, and aggravated it in a fall on the Tour of Switzerland.
The 26-year-old will undergo surgery next week. He will be replaced by British rider Daniel Lloyd on the Tour, which gets underway in Rotterdam next Saturday.
Cervelo team for the Tour de France:
Xavier Florencio (ESP), Volodimir Gustov (UKR), Jeremy Hunt (GBR), Thor Hushovd (NOR), Andreas Klier (GER), Ignatas Konovalovas (LTU), Brett Lancaster (AUS), Daniel Lloyd (GBR), Carlos Sastre (ESP)
Team boss quits Saxo Bank ahead of Tour de France
Kim Andersen, the sporting director of the Danish team Saxo Bank, is stepping down from his job less than a week before the start of the Tour de France.
The 52-year-old announced on Danish television that he was leaving the team, which is run by 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, to set up his own professional team in Luxembourg.
"It is a difficult step to leave the team, but I have had an opportunity that you only get once in your life and just have to take it," Anderson told TV2 Sport.
The Dane is known to be close to Saxo Bank's two leading riders Frank and Andy Schleck, and there are now fears that the brothers, who come themselves from Luxembourg, may be tempted to join him after the Tour.
Saxo Bank announced in January that they were withdrawing sponsorship from Riis' team for next season.
Four dead in Rotterdam helicopter crash
Four people were killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Rotterdam during a cycling event that was part of the build-up to the Tour de France, police said.
"The helicopter crashed with five people on board. Three people were killed, and one of the two injured people has died in hospital," police spokesman Roland Ekkers told AFP. The fifth person on board is in a serious condition, the spokesman said.
Three of the five were photographers covering the event, Dutch news agency ANP reported.
The event, taking place in an industrial park in the port of Rotterdam, was part of the build-up to Saturday's start of the Tour de France, which is taking place in the Dutch city.
© AFP 2010