Giulio Ciccone out of Giro d'Italia due to COVID-19 infection
Trek-Segafredo will take on the Giro d'Italia without team leader Giulio Ciccone after the team confirmed that he won't be able to start the race following his COVID-19 infection.
The Italian rider tested positive for the virus on Monday and has suffered mild symptoms leaving him unable to train in the lead-up to the Grand Tour.
Ciccone, who has won three stages of the Giro in the past, was set to lead the team's GC challenge this May. However, the decision taken by him and the team following continuing positive test results means he'll miss out on the race and a Grande Partenza in his home region of Abruzzo next Saturday.
"Giving up the Giro breaks my heart," Ciccone said. "I can't find any other words to describe my feelings right now. I would have faced my favourite race after the best start to a season of my career. I would have started from home, from my Abruzzo, a historic event, even unique.
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"Everything was perfect and then… I mean, it feels absurd. I have to swallow a bitter pill and the thought of what I could have done in this Giro will be in my mind for a long time. On the other hand, I have to listen to my body.
"I have to recover in the best way possible because the season is long and the risk of compromising it would be too high. It's a tough decision, but I have to accept the fact and look beyond it. As soon as I return to racing, I will turn this disappointment into determination."
Ciccone had enjoyed a strong start to his 2023 season, taking stage wins at the Volta a Valenciana and at the summit finish of Vallter at the Volta a Catalunya, finishing second at the former and seventh at the latter. He also finished fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico and La Flèche Wallonne and looked set to mount at top 10 challenge at the Giro.
Two years ago, he was battling for a top five in the final days of the race before he was forced to withdraw after getting caught in a multi-rider crash on stage 17 to Sega di Ala. Last year he took his third career stage win at the race, prevailing from the breakaway on the Alpine stage 15 to Cogne.
Instead of racing this year's Giro, he'll instead be focussed on recovering from an illness which has included sinusitis, a cough, and tiredness, according to Trek-Segafredo. His next race will be confirmed later in May.
"We are losing a very important part of our Giro squad," team directeur sportif Gregory Rasch said. "With his innate talent and with the great condition he has shown in the very first part of the season, Giulio had everything needed to be one of the protagonists of the race.
"We are sorry for him because we know how much he wanted to be there, and it's a pity that we won't have our strongest man for the climbs. Replacing a captain a few days before the start is impossible, as is finding someone capable of taking over his leadership.
"In the next few hours, we will decide the rider who will take his place. We have some good options who, although in a different role, will guarantee their contribution to the team."
The team's provisional Giro squad included Bauke Mollema and former world champion Mads Pedersen, as well as Natnael Tesfatsion, Alex Kirsch, Daan Hoole, Toms Skujins, and Otto Vergaerde. Trek-Segafredo will confirm their eight-man selection on Tuesday.