By Kirsten Robbins in Santa Rosa, California
A high fever forced Saxo Bank's race leader Fabian Cancellara to withdraw from stage one of the Tour of California. Cancellara took the golden leader's jersey after his winning performance in the previous day's prologue.
"It's a real shame to lose the leader's jersey but when you're sick you're sick. There's no point in hanging on like that," said Saxo Bank's Press Officer, Brian Nygaard.
Cancellara's winning performance in the previous day's 3.9-kilometre time trial gave him a slim 1.2 second margin on runner-up and race favourite Levi Leipheimer (Astana). The early lead put pressure on Saxo Bank's shoulders. According to Cancellara, they were prepared to use their smart tactics to defend the golden jersey until the end.
"He wanted to start out of respect for the team, the leader's jersey and the race," Nygaard said. "He started but it wasn't in the cards to finish. He stopped in the feed zone and we are going to try to get him on a flight back to Europe as soon as possible so he can recover."
Cancellara experienced a high fever during the middle of the night, before the start of stage 1. "He predicted he was going to be sick," Nygaard said. "He was feeling bad yesterday before the prologue and then he woke up at three in the morning with a fever and we knew he wasn't going to be perfect today."
Cancellara pulled out of the race midway through stage one. His abandonment meant that Leipheimer assumed position as race leader on the road. "We know as a team we have more than one card to play so we will try the best we can to work with what we have," Nygaard said. "It will make the a race a little more open now because we don't have the leader's jersey anymore."