Nibali without Navardauskas for Giro d'Italia defence

Vincenzo Nibali will begin the defence of his title in the Giro d'Italia this weekend, but he will be without one of the most powerful domestiques on his new Bahrain-Merida team after Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas was pulled from the Italian Grand Tour due to gastroenteritis.

Navardauskas dropped out of the Tour of Croatia two weeks ago because of the ailment, and was later diagnosed with a bacterial infection.

"The persistence of gastrointestinal symptoms, which had already appeared at the end of the Tenerife training camp and forced him to retire during the recent Tour of Croatia, convinced the medical staff of Bahrain-Merida Team to support further in-depth examinations carried out by the rider himself in Lithuania," team doctor Dr. Carlo Guardascione told the Bahrain News Agency. "These examinations showed a gastric infection by helicobacter pylori and some deficiencies of microelements, requiring adequate antibiotic therapy and reintegration for at least two weeks."

Nibali won the Tour of Croatia with the help of several members of the team for the Giro d'Italia, including Valerio Agnoli, Manuele Boaro, Javier Moreno, Franco Pellizotti and Kanstantsin Siutsou. He will add Enrico Gasparotto, who skipped Croatia to attend the funeral of Michele Scarponi, and Luka Pibernik and Giovanni Visconti this weekend.

"It will be my seventh Giro d'Italia, a race that I really enjoy," Gasparotto said. "My job, like that of my other teammates, will be to stay close to our captain. I hope to see many Bahrain Merida's fans on the roads."

Team directeur sportif Paolo Slongo said the team is ready. "Vincenzo and the whole team have done a good preparation as seen at the recent Tour of Croatia," Slongo said. "We are ready. The team was designed to help our solo leader Nibali and for this reason the group from the beginning of the season has always worked and raced with Vincenzo."

The 100th Giro d'Italia is an important objective for the country's most recent Grand Tour champion, and it will touch on dozens of historic and sentimental locations, including Nibali's own hometown.

"I am very pleased to be part of Giro100," Nibali said. "I like it also because the route touches the two islands – Sardinia and Sicily – which rarely see the Grand Tours. It will be very exciting arriving in my hometown Messina. Dreams and aspirations? No doubt, I will give my best and then the winner will be decided on the road."

Bahrain-Merida for the Giro d'Italia: Vincenzo Nibali, Valerio Agnoli, Manuele Boaro, Enrico Gasparotto, Javier Moreno, Franco Pellizotti, Luka Pibernik, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Giovanni Visconti

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