Coming in 14 minutes behind the day's winner David Veilleux (Europcar) at the Critérium du Dauphiné spelled serious concern for Jelle Vanendert and the Lotto Belisol camp after the Belgian struggled with stomach issues during the opening stage. Their concerns were justified when Vanendert stepped off his bike and into the car early the next day.
Much was expected of the older Vanendert - who rides alongside brother Dennis at Lotto Belisol - this year after stepping up to support the team's number-one GC rider Jurgen Van Der Broeck. Vanendert shot into the spotlight in 2011 when he won a mountain-top stage at the Tour but has so far missed the mark at a number of key 2013 targets. With the Dauphiné being used as the final test ahead of the Tour de France it would appear his participation, that comes off the back of 29th overall in 2012 is in now in real jeopardy.
"In the first stage I wasn't good and today [Stage 2] didn't go well at all," said Vanendert on his team site.
"On the first hill I had to let the group go and then I knew I could not go on like that. I don't know what's wrong, but I don't have any strength and uphill I don't move one meter. The past months haven't given what I had hoped for and that's of course frustrating.
"In the Vuelta al País Vasco I had to quit, then it turned out I had an inflammation of my oesophagus, the Ardennes classics weren't good enough and in the Tour of Belgium I had to throw up after one of the stages."
Narrowly missing the podium at Amstel Gold in 2012 Vanendert was looked upon to lead Lotto Belisol during the Ardennes but came up well short on improving on his past season's results. His best result from the week came at Amstel where he finished 13th but Flèche Wallonne (39th) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (18th) were off the mark.
With the Tour de France set to begin in three weeks time Vanendert immediately returned to Belgium where he could undergo further medical examinations.
"Tonight I'm flying back home to Belgium where a series of tests are planned on Wednesday, then I hope to be wiser. It's logical people ask the question 'what about the Tour?', but that doesn't occupy me at this moment. First I want to know what's wrong with my body so we can take the necessary measures to get healthy again; only then I can set goals."
His Tour inclusion has not yet been ruled out but with a lack of race condition ahead of the Grand Départ, it would appear unlikely the 28-year-old will be on the island of Corsica when the Tour begins. If he does make it, Van Den Broeck may find himself without one of his trusted mountain-men when the road heads upwards.
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