PARIS (AFP) ─ Australian David Tanner has been given a surprise call-up by the Saxo Bank-Sungard team for a spot in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, following an injury to teammate Michael Morkov.
Fellow Aussie Baden Cooke will saddle up for the 258km epic, which features 51.5km of rugged cobblestone sectors, on Sunday when Leopard-Trek’s Fabian Cancellara will be out to defend his title.
Morkov suffered a crash on Friday morning, ruling the Dane out of his maiden “Hell of the North.”
“It was a really unlucky crash and of course, I’m very unhappy right now,” said Morkov. “I was just going out for a quick spin. When I crossed some sewage from our truck, my front wheel just slipped, and I crashed down on my shoulder.
“We fear that I have some kind of fracture in my shoulder, so late last night it was decided that I couldn’t ride.”
Saxo Bank, which is run and owned by Bjarne Riis, had one of the strongest classics teams up until the end of 2010, winning with Cancellara in 2006 and 2010 and Australian Stuart O’Grady in 2007.
However, the team underwent huge personnel changes in the off-season, with most of the team’s big names ─ notably the Schleck brothers Andy and Fränk, Cancellara and O’Grady ─ moving across to team Leopard.
The biggest threat to Cancellara is likely to come from Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel and his teammate, three-time winner Tom Boonen, who is aiming to equal the record of four wins held by fellow Belgian Roger De Vlaeminck.
Norwegian Thor Hushovd, Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha, Alessandro Ballan and Filippo Pozzato will also likely be in the running for victory in the race, which ends in the famous Roubaix velodrome.