Illnesses knock Sky riders out of upcoming races

Three of Sky's new riders — Kwiatkowski, Landa, and Intxausti — are suffering minor illnesses in the early stages of the spring season.

No risks, at least not in February. Those are doctor’s orders inside Team Sky as some late-winter illnesses are sweeping the British super-team ahead of racing this week in Spain and Portugal.

Three of Sky’s high-profile signings for 2016 are in the sick bay and will miss scheduled starts at the Volta ao Algarve and Ruta del Sol. Former world champ Michal Kwiatkowski is out of Algarve with a stomach bug that struck Tuesday evening, while Beñat Intxausti and Mikel Landa will miss the Ruta del Sol, each with illnesses.

“We always consider the health of the rider, and we are not going to risk anything,” a Team Sky spokesman said Tuesday night. “Michal has got a stomach bug, Beñat has a nasty cold, and Mikel is just a bit under the weather.”

Kwiatkowski, 25, was hoping to make his stage-race debut with Sky at Algarve, but that might not happen until Paris-Nice next month. The 2014 world champion debuted in Sky colors at the Mallorca Challenge earlier this February — a quartet of one-day races, finishing second in two of three days he raced — and is expected to race Strade Bianche on March 5 before lining up at Paris-Nice.

Intxausti, 29, made a strong Sky debut at the Volta a Valencia, finishing second at the Xorret de Catí summit behind stage-winner and teammate Wout Poels, and finished third on the final GC podium behind overall winner Poels. Intxausti is expected to line up at Tirreno-Adriatico next month, while Poels will lead Sky at Ruta del Sol.

Landa, meanwhile, will postpone his season debut until what’s a likely start at Tirreno-Adriatico. The 26-year-old Basque also got sick early in 2015, delaying his season debut Volta a Catalunya in late March. That certainly didn’t hurt his spring — he won a stage at the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) in April, finishing second to Richie Porte at the Giro del Trentino, before barnstorming the Giro d’Italia, with back-to-back stage wins and third overall.

“We are just taking precautions,” the Sky spokesman said. “We’ll keep monitoring [Landa] over the next few days, but we’re not going to rush him to get back on the bike.”

What counts for Landa and the other Sky riders in sick bay isn’t February, but what happens in the Ardennes for Kwiatkowski and the Giro for Landa and Intxausti.