Vuelta: Lotto Belisol reduced by stomach bug

The Belgian Lotto Belisol team has lost three of its riders at the Vuelta a España over the weekend, due to what seemed to be a viral infection. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Jens Debusschere and Olivier Kaisen all abandoned the race on Saturday. While Van Den Broeck and Debusschere threw in the towel before the start of stage 14, Kaisen did not want to quit but finally had to get off his bike after 14 kilometres of racing.

All three riders suffered from diarrhea. "Jens (Debusschere) has had diarrhea for four days," team doctor Bohdan Wasj said. "I'm responsible for the health of the riders and even if Jens wanted to try and continue, as a doctor I had to intervene. Of course, he's disappointed, but as a team doctor it is also my task to protect the riders, especially the younger ones, which I thought was necessary in this case."

Van Den Broeck, whose body was tired from finishing fourth at the Tour de France in July and therefore even more sensitive to illnesses, had lost further time on GC on Friday's stage 13 and therefore had no reason to battle on. "My stomach hurts and I feel no energy whatsoever, a consequence of the virus that is going round in our team," the Belgian climber told Het Nieuwsblad. "I just couldn't continue."

Van Den Broeck has decided to put an end to his season. "I don't want to jeopardize my winter build-up by continuing to race now. I've been busy since the Tour of Algarve mid-February," he added.

His teammate Kaisen, who was racing his tenth Grand Tour - having completed all nine before this Vuelta - ultimately had to abandon as well even if he still took the start. Lotto Belisol is thus down to six riders for the last week of the Vuelta.

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