Philippe Gilbert abandoned Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico stage race today due to a fever. Overnight, he felt symptoms and skipped the start of today's leg in Offida, five days before the start of Milan-San Remo (March 17).
"I can tell you," team doctor Max Testa said, "if today was San Remo he would have started."
BMC Racing rushed together a press conference this morning in the rolling hills near the start and with a view of San Benedetto, where Tirreno finishes tomorrow.
Testa said Gilbert suffered a fever of 38 to 38.2°C. It was enough to knock him out of Tirreno, but, the team hopes, not for the upcoming classics.
"He was able to sleep okay. This morning he had a little headache, a sore throat and a few degrees temperature. We didn't want to take any chances," Testa added.
"It looks like is a virus, upper respiratory infection. It's best not to fight it before Milan-San Remo so it will not impact his San Remo performance. He's stopped, just resting."
Gilbert ruled the classics season last year, winning all three Ardennes Classics and the opening day of the Tour de France. Over the winter, he signed with Cadel Evans' BMC Racing team. Already on the first day of Tirreno, he looked to be suffering, sitting up early as the team time trialled to Donoratico on the Tuscan coast.
Now on the Adriatic coast, Gilbert's condition looks worse.
"For sure he was fighting something," Testa (pictured) said. "They did 22 hours of racing in four days, that's a lot of effort. The immune system doesn't work well when you're tired."
Last year's Milan-San Remo winner, Matt Goss of team GreenEdge also did not start today. He led the race after his team won the time trial, but decided to head to Monaco early to prepare for Saturday's race.
Sky's Mark Cavendish and Bernard Eisel abandoned today's stage following a brief escape by Cavendish. They joined team-mates Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thomas Löfkvist, who also pulled out early to prepare for San Remo.
Alessandro Petacchi, 2005 San Remo winner, abandoned on yesterday's stage to Prati di Tivo.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Philippe Gilbert: Rider Profile
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