New Zealander George Bennett has been withdrawn from the 2015 Giro d’Italia by his LottoNL-Jumbo team for health reasons after a pre-race UCI test returned a low reading for cortisol.

The Dutch team is a voluntary member of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), and according to that organisation’s rules any rider with a low cortisol level must be withdrawn from competition for eight days in order for them to recover.

Under less strict UCI rules, Bennett would be allowed to take to the start line but members of the MPCC must also stick to its more stringent rules. The test was carried out last Thursday, April 30. Low cortisol levels can occur for several reasons, including illness, disease or use of cortisone. No indication has been given to the cause of Bennett’s level.

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At this stage in proceedings, the team cannot replace the 25 year old in its roster and will race the Giro with eight men.

“George Bennett will not start in the Giro d’Italia on Saturday because of health conditions,” read a LottoNL-Jumbo statement issued on Friday night after the team presentation in San Remo.

“The team made this decision since the rider from New Zealand appeared to have a low cortisol level in a regular pre-race UCI test, which could be an indication of sub-optimal health conditions.”

“Today the team received an email from the UCI that low cortisol levels were measured in the regular UCI pre-race test last Thursday. According to the UCI, Bennett is allowed to start in the Giro. Team LottoNL-Jumbo is a member of the MPCC (Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible) and the MPCC’s rules state that riders with cortisol levels that are too low, should not race for eight days until these levels are within normal range.”

Last year, American rider Chris Horner did not take to the start line of the Vuelta a Espana after returning a low level of cortisol from a blood test before the race. His former Lampre-Merida team is also a member of the MPCC, and withdrew him. Horner had taken oral cortisone to treat bronchitis, causing his low cortisol level.

The 2015 Giro d’Italia starts on Saturday, May 9, with a team time trial stage from San Lorenzo al Mare to San Remo.