Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) has gone under the knife for a nose operation designed to improve his breathing.
Following the conclusion of the 2020 season, the Italian said he'd finally found time to go ahead with the procedure, which had been on the cards for a while.
Ciccone has suffered from a septum deviation, where the wall dividing the two nasal passages falls out of line and restricts breathing.
"The fine-tuning for 2021 continues. After years of waiting and postponements I underwent a functional rhinoseptoplasty," Ciccone wrote in a social media update from a hospital bed, alongside a specialist maxillofacial surgeon.
"The septum was now completely deviated and functionality was extremely reduced. If, from now on, you will not only see photos with my mouth open, the credit goes to Dr Tito Marianetti. An infinite thank you for his professionalism and availability, I could not find better hands to rely on."
Ciccone, who won the Trofeo Laigueglia at the start of the season, suffered from COVID-19 in the summer, leaving a Trek-Segafredo training camp due to fatigue before testing positive on August 31.
He was pulled from Tirreno-Adriatico but came back to race the Giro d'Italia, which he had to leave after 13 stages, with his team saying it was "prudent not to overload an already tired physique."
Ciccone, who won a stage and the mountains classification at the 2019 Giro, before wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, was forced to end his 2020 campaign on a disappointing note. Since the restart, his highlight was fifth place at Il Lombardia.
"It has been a very troubled season, for many reasons, and unfortunately this withdraw seems a natural conclusion," he said.
"I am very sorry to have to stop here and not be able to give what I could in this Giro. Disappointments are part of a rider’s career and you have to accept them, but they do not bring you down. Now I want to think only about recovering and then, in time, we will plan the 2021 season."
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