Van Garderen opts out of Olympic Games

'Zika virus too great a risk for pregnant wife,' says American

Tejay van Garderen has decided to withdraw his name from consideration for the US team for the Olympic Games in Rio over concerns that the Zika virus outbreak could present risks for his wife, who is pregnant with their second child.

Speaking from his pre-Tour de Suisse training camp in Andorra, van Garderen told Cyclingnews that at first the decision was tough, but now he is excited to be able to take a break at home after the Tour de France before returning to Europe for the Vuelta a España.

The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus that causes flu-like symptoms in adults, became a global concern when the virus was linked to a surge in severe birth defects. Earlier this year it was demonstrated that the virus could also be sexually transmitted, and van Garderen doesn't want to take any chances with his family.

"I know the risks are small, and there are precautions you can take, but the fact is I just don't want to risk bringing anything into the house that could potentially have an effect, however small the chances are," van Garderen said.

Van Garderen competed in the road race at the Olympic Games in London, but finished a distant 104th after working for teammate Taylor Phinney. The Rio course would have suited him better as it contains a major climb, and he stood a strong chance of being selected for one of two time trial spots for the USA. At first, he said, deciding to skip the Games was a difficult choice.

"It came in stages. At first I thought I would still do it, then I accepted it, and now I'm actually embracing it. I looked at my schedule - I do the Tour de France and then I get to go home. I won't have anything in the back of my mind - having to stay sharp the day after Paris. I can take a breather - I haven't been home since January - I can spend some time with the family. I'll come back and race the Vuelta."

After the Vuelta a Espana, van Garderen will return home for the season, and will not take part in the World Championships in Qatar.

"That's right when the baby's due, so that's another part of the programme I'll have to skip," he said.

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