Ben O'Connor (Dimension Data) has abandoned the Tour of Oman through illness. The Australian suffered a fever after stage 2 on Sunday and did not take to the start of stage 3 in Shati Al Qurum on Monday morning.
O'Connor, who will take aim again at the Giro d'Italia in May, had high hopes for Oman, and was eyeing a result on the decisive summit finish on Green Mountain on stage 5. However, he began to feel unwell during Sunday's stage, where his teammate Ryan Gibbons claimed third place, and his condition deteriorated in the evening.
"Already yesterday he told us after the race that he didn't feel good. He was still in the front group but couldn't really work for Ryan. He told us, 'I really feel shit,'" Dimension Data directeur sportif Hendrik Redant told Cyclingnews.
"So we talked about it, and said, 'Ah – no worries. We'll see what happens – that's cycling.' But then last night he really started coughing a lot and felt bad and had a fever all night. The doctor was with him a few times overnight, and we put him in a separate room, but he really got sick. He was coughing, with mucus coming up, his nose full, and pain all over. When you have flu, you know that at the start you have pain all over your body, which is what he has."
The decision was taken by the team and their medical stuff to pull O'Connor out of the race, and it wasn't a difficult one to make.
"With a fever, there's no way you're going to start here. It's too early in the season. If this happened at the Giro, he'd try to start, of course. But here, if you do that, there's the risk that it could get really bad, and then you have a problem," Redant said.
"We'd rather have him better and taking care of his health. It's a pity because he was our leader. He was going to go for it on Green Mountain and he felt really good about it. So it's a bummer."
O'Connor will now return home on the next available flight to rest up. His race programme has not yet been finalised but, provided there are no complications with his recovery, that will be done in the following few days.
After a breakthrough display at the Giro last year, where he was riding into the top 10 when a crash on stage 19 took him out of the race, O'Connor will return to Italy in May to settle what he sees as "unfinished business". Last year he raced the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Alps before heading to the Giro.
"He'll stick to the programme. That's why he wanted to stop, because otherwise he might not be able to," Redant said.
"Hopefully he can get healthy and start training as normal again. But if we tried to keep him in the race, maybe he'd lose another 10 days of training, and that would be serious."