Walker too sick for California

Team Rabobank sent only seven riders to the starter's ramp of Sunday's Tour of California prologue. Australian William Walker was unable to participate due to health reasons and was sent back to his home in Italy to recover.

According to the team's website, rabobank.nl, the 22 year-old started suffering from facial paralysis, caused by a viral infection, shortly after he arrived in the US on Wednesday. The medical staff advised him to return home to recover.

However, two other Rabobank riders have recovered from injury or illness and will be making their comeback. Mathew Hayman broke his collarbone only three weeks ago in the Tour Down Under, but is riding again already in California.

Sprinter Oscar Freire is also there. "It is Oscar's first race of the season and he is just coming back from illness," according to team leader Erik Breukink. "He was bothered by stomach problems. But now he is doing fine again, even though you always have to wait and see how he digests his first race."

The Dutch team won a stage in the race last season with sprinter Graeme Brown, who is not present this year, and the young rider jersey, with Robert Gesink. Breukink is looking forward to the week on the US West Coast. "It is a great course, the weather right now is wonderful and the people here are extremely enthusiastic."

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