Australian favourite Richie Porte (BMC Racing) has pulled out of the 2018 World Championship road race due to illness.
Porte was due to lead the Australian team in Innsbruck on Sunday but has confirmed he will not feature.
The team decided Porte’s position as leader should be given to another rider after he contracted a respiratory infection at the end of the Vuelta a España
Porte said: “I’m really disappointed to miss the road race. It was a big goal for me at the end of the season and I had been training and racing with the road race in mind.
“However, recent illness means my preparation has been far from ideal and for a race of this difficulty, with more than 4,600 metres of climbing, you need to have the best preparation possible to be up there.”
Porte has struggled with injury and illness over the last two seasons, suffering a horrific crash on a descent in the 2017 Tour de France.
In this year’s Tour, the 33-year-old crashed on the Roubaix stage and was forced to pull out of the race.
He returned to the peloton at the Vuelta but again struggled due to illness.
Porte said: “Within the Cycling Australia team, we have decided that it is in the team’s best interest if my place goes to someone else.
“I wish the whole Aussie team the best and will be cheering them on from home.”
BMC Racing’s team doctor, Dr Max Testa said Porte needs more time to recover from the illness.
Dr Testa said: “Richie developed an upper respiratory infection towards the end of the Vuelta a España which has required him to take antibiotics and stop training.
“He will need a few more days off the bike to recover properly which means it does not make sense for him to line up at the World Championships.
“Richie will resume training next week and will be able to race again this season.”
Cycling Australia announced over the weekend that Porte’s place would be taken by 24-year-old Nick Schultz.
The team said the Caja Rural-Seguros RGA rider will take on a climbing support role.
Australia Cycling’s team performance director Simon Jones: “No one is more disappointed than Richie, and he knows he won’t be able to perform to his high expectations.
“The team has worked really hard behind the scenes to pull the game plan together, and we will regroup and refocus during the week ahead.”
Schultz said: “It is an honour to be selected to represent Australia at the World Championships.
“I will give my maximum to deliver what is required.”