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Visma-Lease a Bike’s Cian Uijtdebroeks Abandons Giro d’Italia Due to Illness

107th giro d'italia 2024 stage 4
Giro d’Italia Abandons Claim Key RidersTim de Waele - Getty Images

Just three days after winning their first stage of this year, Visma-Lease a Bike is down to four riders.

This morning, Visma’s GC man and current white jersey leader as the best young rider, Cian Uijtdebroeks, abandoned the Giro d’Italia, citing an illness that seems to be running through the peloton. “The Giro will have to continue without the biggest smile of the peloton,” the team said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “We regret to announce that Cian Uijtdebroeks is forced to abandon the race. Cian did not feel well the past days and after yesterday’s stage, he fell ill.”

It was a hard hit for both Visma and the young Belgian, who has been showing great form in his first Grand Tour.

Just twenty-four hours prior, the team’s sprinter—and Sunday’s Stage 9 winner—Olav Kooij abandoned due to what is presumed to be the same illness. During the race’s first week, Visma’s first-rate leadout man, Christophe Laporte, abandoned due to injuries sustained in a crash on Stage 4. This is a far cry from last season when Visma-Lease a Bike won all three of the season’s Grand Tours.

But Visma isn’t the only team getting hit hard with abandonments. Like the Killer Bees, Israel-Premier Tech is down to just four riders. Ethan Vernon, one of their sprinters, abandoned with what the team described as an “acute respiratory viral infection with fever.”

Despite easy speculation, team officials told Dutch outlet Wielerflits that the illness was not an outbreak of COVID-19. “There is certainly no question of Corona within our team,” a team spokesman said. “We still apply the same strict corona protocol as in recent years, with everyone in the team being tested every day. When someone has corona, we immediately notice it and intervene. That is not the case now.”

In many ways, Grand Tours are races of attrition. Simply getting to the end of these herculean races is a feat unto itself. But this year’s Giro d’Italia seems to be getting hit especially hard, with a total of twenty-one abandonments through ten stages. Of the twenty-two teams that started this year’s Giro, half have lost at least one rider. And like Visma-Lease a Bike and Israel-Premier Tech, Astana Qazaqstan, Tudor, and Intermarché-Wanty have lost multiple riders.

Some of those names, like Biniam Girmay, Simon Carr, and Alexy Lutsenko, were expected to contest for stage wins. Meanwhile, Uijtebroeks went into the race hoping for a podium finish. Prior to his abandonment, the 21-year-old Belgian was living up to his early career hype, sitting in fifth place overall, four minutes and fifteen seconds behind Tadej Pogačar in the maglia rosa.

As for Pogačar, his UAE Team Emirates has thus far been unimpeded by abandonments. The same goes for GC hopeful and current third-place rider Geraint Thomas and INEOS Grenadiers. BORA-hansgrohe’s Dani Martínez, the man between them in second place, has lost climbing domestique Florian Lipowitz, who abandoned due to the same illness that is sweeping through the race.

That illness has also forced abandonments from DSM-Firmenich PostNL’s Bram Welten, Intermarché-Wanty’s Adrien Petit, Astana Qazaqstan’s Alexy Lutsenko and Max Kanter, along with Kooij, Vernon, and Lipowitz.

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