French ire as Froome replaced by Porte in Tirreno-Adriatico

AFP| Updated: Mar 08, 2014, 11:49 AM IST

Paris: Britain`s Tour de France winner Chris Froome has pulled out of next week`s Tirreno-Adriatico week-long stage race in Italy with his Sky team replacing the Kenyan-born rider with Australian Richie Porte.

But that move was met by anger from Paris-Nice organisers, Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) as Porte had been due to begin the defence of his `Race to the Sun` title on Sunday.

Froome is suffering from a back complaint and hasn`t raced since winning February`s Tour of Oman.

"Chris has suffered a slight inflammation to the sacroiliac joint in the lower back," confirmed Team Sky doctor Alan Farrell.

"As a precaution we have chosen to withdraw him from next week`s Tirreno-Adriatico (starting March 12) so he can focus on recovering and preparing for the Volta a Catalunya (starting March 24)."

In a statement on the team`s website Rod Ellingworth, Team Sky`s performance manager, added: "This is just a minor setback for Chris and we hope he will get back to full training within a week. He`s obviously disappointed to miss Tirreno-Adriatico but we shouldn`t take any chances at this stage of the season."

Sky`s decision to shift Porte from the Paris-Nice race, which has no individual time-trial or tough mountain finishes, to the Tirreno-Adriatico that more suits his capabilities with two time-trials (one team and one individual) and two summit finishes, was met with anger from ASO, the company that runs the Tour de France.

"We find it cavalier to have the reigning (Paris-Nice) champion pull out just before the start," said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

"We were told that to win points for the world rankings, the Tirreno was more favourable (to Porte) due to its technical characteristics and the presence of an (individual) time-trial.

"We stick by the Paris-Nice route, without a time-trial for the first time since 1955 and without a long enough summit finish. Everything was done so that the race could be fought for everywhere, just as much on the flats as in the more hilly stages."

"We wanted to move away from stereotypes and we`re going to continue on this path. Bearing in mind it`s the riders who decide, we`ll keep proposing more open courses. I`m convinced it will be a magnificent race."

Sky won the last two editions of the Paris-Nice through Bradley Wiggins in 2013 and then Porte last year.

Welshman Geraint Thomas will now head their Paris-Nice challenge while Wiggins will support Porte in Italy.

Froome finished second to Italy`s Vincenzo Nibali, who is racing the Paris-Nice this year, in last year`s Tirreno-Adriatico.