The Israel Cycling Academy's quest to make history with the first Israeli to finish a Grand Tour took a blow on Wednesday when Guy Niv, one half of the team's 'Two Guys', along with Guy Sagiv, was forced to abandon the Giro d'Italia due to illness.
Niv started the 153km fifth stage from Agrigento to Santa Ninfa but climbed off his bike after two hours, unable to hold the peloton's pace.
Niv and Sagiv made history last week as the first two Israelis to start a Grand Tour, and both were committed to making history again at the finish three weeks later in Rome. Now Sagiv is the lone Israeli facing the challenge.
"Today my body just betrayed me," Niv said in a video recorded by the team. "I woke up in the morning and I felt sick. I called our doctor and he came to my room. We tried to do what we can, but when I saw at breakfast that I just wasn't able to eat anything I knew I'm gonna face a really hard day."
Niv said he tried his best, but he simply could not stick with the peloton, even in the early, flatter sections of the route.
"I began the race and gave it everything I had in the first two hours, which was, in terms of a Giro stage, pretty easy, but for me it was hell," Niv said. "I suffered a lot and I had nothing in my legs. That's it. I'm really disappointed, but I know I will come back stronger and have a lot to achieve in the rest of my career. It's just the beginning."
Niv is in just his second full pro road season after turning from mountain biking to road racing with the Israel Cycling Academy last year; the Tour of Utah in August was his first-ever UCI race. He decided to switch to road racing after learning about the Giro start in Jerusalem and the likelihood that the Israeli-registered team would take part.
"There are a few things that frustrated me, but maybe the most of them is that I didn't even challenge myself against the Giro because the first three days in Israel I was OK, but it was just the beginning," he said.
"Now I got this virus already in the beginning and my body was just not there. If I needed to quit after 14 or 17 stages because it was just too much for me and I could not hold the pace anymore, I would know that I'm not at this level for now. But it was not that. We are talking about one of the easiest stages so far, and I could not hold it. That's really frustrating."
For Sagiv and the rest of the Israel Cycling Academy Giro roster, the race continues on Thursday with the ascent up Mount Etna.