Paris - Belgian rider Stijn Vandenbergh has been forced to withdraw from the Tour de France because of a saddle sore, with Slovakia's Martin Velits taking his place, his Omega Pharma team announced on Tuesday.
"I've had this problem for the past ten days, it was nearly better but got worse during the Belgian championships on Sunday. Together with the medical team we decided not to take any risks," said Vandenbergh.
Velits, 27, joins his twin brother Peter in the Belgian team, where he will compete in his first Tour de France.
The Slovak time-trial champion last year, he finished second in the event this year behind his brother.
Sylvain Chavanel, a winner of two stages on the Tour in 2010, is one of France's best hopes in this year's race, while Belgian star Tom Boonen has decided not to take part as he focuses on preparing for the London Olympics.
Omega Pharma team:
Sylvain Chavanel (FRA), Kevin De Weert (BEL), Dries Devenyns (BEL), Bert Grabsch (GER), Levi Leipheimer (USA), Tony Martin (GER), Jerome Pineau (FRA), Martin Velits (SVK), Peter Velits (SVK)