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Giro d'Italia

Unlucky: Cancellara falls ill before Giro opener

Fabian Cancellara was targeting Friday's stage 1 time trial, but a fever may derail his chances of wearing the pink jersey.

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APELDOORN, Netherlands (VN) — Fabian Cancellara’s dream of wearing the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia one time before he ends his career this season took a hit. The Swiss leader of team Trek – Segafredo is suffering from a fever and stomach flu, and the team doubts if it is possible for him to win the race’s opening time trial Friday.

Cancellara is racing his final season after a career that includes stage wins and wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, conquering the monuments, and taking four titles in the world championship time trial.

“Yesterday morning, we returned from training and he got off his bike and said that he felt cold and a bit of a chill,” Trek general manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews.

“He was up last night and his temperature read 37.5°C [99.5°F]. This morning, it was better, but the doctor told him to stay in bed and rest. We hope he can recover and start tomorrow.”

Cancellara broke the bad news Thursday morning in a Twitter message and said he is trying to remain positive.

“Is the pink jersey dream lost? I don’t know how to respond to that,” Guercilena said. “Through Monday, We did all the training we needed to do and he was doing well. Two days of fever does not put him in a good spot, though.”

Recent grand tours have not been kind to Cancellara. He crashed out of the Tour de France while wearing the maillot jaune last year. In the Vuelta a España, a stomach illness forced him to quit early.

Guercilena hopes the 36-year-old Cancellara can push through this and aim for different goals in the three-week Italian tour, which starts with three stages in the Netherlands before heading to the toe of Italy’s boot.

“We could aim at some stages on various days as the race goes on, the long time trial in Chianti could be an option,” Guercilena said, still trying to make sense of the setback. “We just have to see how he goes and use his form that he has.”

Trek lines up with Ryder Hesjedal for the race overall and Giacomo Nizzolo for the sprints.

The opening stage in Apeldoorn on Friday is a flat but technical city circuit that starts in the velodrome and covers 9.8 kilometers. With Cancellara not at his best, attention turns to Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin), Jos Van Emden (LottoNL – Jumbo), Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling), and Bob Jungels (Etixx – Quick-Step) as potential victors.

Dutchman Dumoulin placed second in the opening prologue and second again in the time trial in the recent Tour de Romandie. He is taking aim at the prologue and the Chianti time trial. Last year, he shocked many followers when he nearly won the overall in the Vuelta a España. Only in the final mountain stage did he collapse under the attacks of Astana’s Fabio Aru.

Van Emden, former hour record holder Brändle, and Jungels all had top-15 times in the Tour de France’s opening time trial in Utrecht last year.