Setbacks force Valverde, Porte, Rolland to reshuffle schedules

A few top riders abandon original early season plans due to setbacks ranging from illness to injury.

Several big names are adjusting their respective racing calendars due to injuries and illness just as the WorldTour season clicks into gear in Europe.

The change with perhaps the biggest implications involves French star Pierre Rolland (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels), who confirmed he will be forced to miss Paris-Nice following a heavy crash this weekend at the Drome Classic in France.

Rolland, who moved to the French outfit following a stint at EF Education First, fractured bones in his wrist during the spill. He won’t need surgery but he will be unable to start the “Race to the Sun” next week.

“The diagnosis isn’t as bad as feared and the injury will heal on its own,” Rolland said. “It’s a shame because I had good form and I was ready to fight for everything at Paris-Nice.”

His absence will have important implications for Vital Concept-B&B Hotels, however, as the team was hoping for a strong showing by Rolland at the ASO-owned Paris-Nice to bolster its chances to earn one of two remaining wild-card bids to race the 2019 Tour de France.

There’s is a heated battle between three French teams — also including Direct Energie and Arkea-Samsic — to try to snag two remaining slots for the Tour. The final wildcards are expected to be announced following Paris-Nice.

Movistar also confirmed Wednesday that world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will not race this weekend’s Strade Bianche due to lingering effects of a fever he came down with during the UAE Tour last week. Valverde, twice third at Strade Bianche, will also miss Milano-Sanremo (March 23) and return to competition at the Volta a Catalunya (March 25-31).

Richie Porte (Trek-Segrafredo) will race Catalunya as well instead of a planned return to Paris-Nice, a race he’s twice won, due to bronchitis he came down with during the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.

“I am very sorry that that is not going to happen this year and I would like to thank the team for their understanding,” Porte said of missing Paris-Nice. “I am confident that with a good block of solid training between now and the end of March, I will be ready to compete at the highest level in Volta a Catalunya.”