UAE Team Emirates' Valerio Conti had to pull out of the Giro d'Italia ahead of stage 18 on Thursday due to a serious saddle sore. The Italian held the maglia rosa as race leader earlier in the Giro, but has been forced to head home only a few days before the finish.
"Over the past week, Valerio has been struggling with pain due to a 'cyclist's nodule' – an ischial hygroma," explained team doctor Jarrad Van Zuydam of Conti's condition, which is effectively a more serious form of saddle sore.
"We have been treating his condition with some success, but unfortunately his condition deteriorated significantly after the stage yesterday," said Van Zuydam on the team's website.
Conti – who enjoyed six days in the pink jersey between stages 7 and 12 – was nevertheless able to get into the 18-rider breakaway on Wednesday's stage 17, which kept the peloton at bay, with Conti taking seventh place at the finish in Anterselva.
"Unfortunately, I've been suffering with physical problems for the last few days, which hampered my pedalling a bit, so despite the effort, I couldn't take the win," Conti said at the finish. But after his condition worsened overnight, the 26-year-old was a non-starter in Valdaora on Thursday morning.
"This is not how I wanted my Giro to end," a disappointed Conti said. "Despite the assistance of the staff, the situation got worse. I tried to fight through it, but unfortunately withdrawing is the only option.
"The Giro has been full of satisfaction for me, and I'll always remember the days I spent in pink, and they'll motivate me to get to the next level," he said, having had to end his race while in 22nd place overall.