Vincenzo Nibali will not start the fifth stage of the Tour of the Basque Country after he abandoned the race with what Bahrain-Merida team doctors described as a "painful skin lesion located in the rider's seat area".
Having impressed at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, Nibali had been struggling at the Spanish stage race, losing nearly three minutes on both stage two and stage four, the reason for which appears to be a nasty saddle sore described in interesting language by the team.
"The athlete suffers from a painful skin lesion located in the rider's seat area," explained Dr Emilio Magni, Bahrain-Merida team doctor.
"For preventive purposes and to facilitate a complete recovery in view of the next commitments, it was decided to withdraw from the race."
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The next race on Nibali's calendar is expected to be the Amstel Gold Race, which takes place in the Netherlands in just over a weeks time on April 15, with the team deciding that it was more important for Nibali to let his "seat area" to heal ahead of the Ardennes Classics rather than causing potential further damage persevering in the Basque Country.
"We have decided that it is better for Vincenzo to go home because of the importance of the next races that he will take part in Belgium in about ten days," added sports director Gorazd Štangel. "It was useless to continue in these conditions and expose the rider to greater risks."
As for Nibali himself, he didn't seem too concerned about the injury, joking to La Gazzetta dello Sport that removing his bandages was "like having my butt waxed. It wasn't pretty."
After the Amstel Gold Race, Nibali is expected to take part in the other two Ardennes Classics, La Flèche Wallonne and Liége-Bastogne-Liége before a period of reduced racing as he skips the Giro d'Italia and builds towards the Tour de France in July.
With Nibali back in Italy, Bahrain-Merida will be relying on the Izagirre brothers to deliver results in the final two stages of the Tour of the Basque Country, with Gorka Izagirre being best placed in fifth position overall, 1-42 behind race leader Primož Roglič.
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