Cian Uijtdebroeks before the start of the Giro d'Italia's stage 10.

Uijtdebroeks out of Giro d’Italia as illness circulates in the bunch

The white jersey abandons and leaves Visma-Lease a Bike with just four riders in the race.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 15.05.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
More from Jonny +

The white jersey of the Giro d’Italia, Visma-Lease a Bike’s Cian Uijtdebroeks, has abandoned before the start of stage 11 due to illness.

Fifth overall in the general classification, the 21-year-old Belgian had lost a handful of seconds on the uphill finish of stage 10 and admitted after the race to being sick.

“I didn’t feel completely healthy today,” he told Eurosport, saying a sore throat had bothered him during the stage. “It seems like everyone in the peloton is having some trouble. It is important to ensure that it does not get worse. First of all, I hope I can recover from this. If this was my bad day, I’m happy.”

That recovery didn’t come, however, with Visma-Lease a Bike announcing their GC hope for the race was climbing off before the start of stage 11.

“The Giro will continue without the biggest smile in the peloton,” the team said in a statement. “It pains us to report that Cian has to leave the race. He had not been feeling well in recent days and after Tuesday’s stage he became even sicker.”

Uijtdebroeks abandonment now leaves Visma-Lease a Bike without either of their two co-leaders for the race, with sprinter and stage winner Olav Kooij abandoning before the start of stage 10 due to a fever. This leaves the Dutch squad with only four riders in the race: Jan Tratnik has already succumbed to and recovered from a sore throat, while Attila Valter, Edoardo Affini and Tim Van Dijke will look to try and somehow pick up the pieces for the team that won all three Grand Tours last year.

Cian Uijtdebroeks crosses the stage 10 finish line.
Cian Uijtdebroeks crosses the stage 10 finish line.

“This is of course a huge disappointment, especially after Olav Kooij ‘s earlier withdrawal,” sports director Marc Reef admitted. “After Olav’s stage victory we still thought that anything was possible, but now we can no longer count on our two leaders. This is a huge setback, after perfect preparation for the Giro.”

It also robs the race of an intriguing battle for a Grand Tour youth classification. With Tadej Pogačar finally too old for the competition, younger riders looked poised to make it more of a contest than the fight for pink. On stage 10, Bahrain-Victorious’ Antonio Tiberi was unafraid to launch his own attack from the GC group to see who he could potentially dislodge, and he was eventually rewarded for his efforts as he almost halved his deficit to the white jersey Uijtdebroeks from 21 to 12 seconds. Now, the next closest young rider to Tiberi is his Italian compatriot Filippo Zanna (Jayco-AlUla), almost a minute behind.

During stage 10, Reef said there was a lot of coughing and spluttering going around the peloton, which is not unexpected for a Grand Tour, especially the Giro, where riders are pushing their bodies to the limit in often suboptimal weather conditions. Following four abandons after the first rest day and now Uijtdebroeks, 19 riders have so far left the Giro d’Italia through illness or injury.

On Saturday, after his victory atop Prati di Tivo, race leader Tadej Pogačar sounded bunged up and admitted his “nose is a bit clogged, due to allergies or something, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I think it will be fine.”

There is a lot of race left to ride, but the evidence so far suggests the main threat to Pogačar’s stranglehold on the pink jersey will be illness or injury. For those vying for the other podium spots or a high-placing GC finish, however, there is still all to play for, particularly if the road to Rome is littered with lurgy.

Update: When asked by Wielerflits if the illnesses suffered by Uijtdebroeks and Kooij were potentially COVID-19, the team said they were not and that coronavirus protocols were still being followed by the squad and support staff.

“There is certainly no question of corona within our team,” a spokesperson told the Dutch outlet. “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 immediately. That is not the case now.”

What did you think of this story?