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Former world champion Philippe Gilbert’s intention of riding the Tour de France has been dashed due to the diagnosis of a previously-undetected leg fracture, with the Belgian now forced to miss next month’s Grand Tour.
His BMC Racing Team doctor Max Testa has revealed that a recent MRI identified a fracture in his lower right leg.
“The MRI showed a small fracture of the postero-lateral tibia head,” he explained in a team statement. “The fracture is small, and not involving the joint articular surface and the injury is not worrisome for his cycling career.
“Philippe had no particular pain on the bike. But he had been complaining of knee discomfort, especially off of it, and especially going up and down stairs. So we decided to look into it.”
It is believed that the fracture was incurred at the Flèche Wallonne Classic in April, where he crashed.
Since then he clocked up two stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and placed second overall in the points classification. Despite that, the team believes the best course of action is that he should rest.
“We had a productive and open discussion regarding his current health and the second part of his season and goals,” said the team’s president Jim Ochowicz. “The eight riders that we do select to support Tejay van Garderen will be chosen based on current health and performance. We want the best eight candidates at the start in Utrecht and right now Philippe is not at his best.”
Van Garderen finished second overall in the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday and both he and the team believe he can finish on his previous best placings of two top five finishes in the Tour.
While Gilbert is disappointed to miss the race, the team said the decision between himself and Ochowicz was a mutual one. He will give up his chance of a stage win in his home country but has other targets a little later in the season.
“Of course, I was motivated for the Tour because it is going to pass in a part of Belgium and there is also the nice finish on the Mur de Huy,” he stated. “But the Tour de France is every year. It is not like I am missing something like the Olympic Games.
“So every year you have a chance to do it and I have already done it a few times and have had a lot of success at this race already.”
Gilbert won the world road race championships in 2012 and wants to try to take the rainbow jersey once again. That is one of his focuses, with the autumn Classics another target.
“A big goal for me is always the worlds and Il Lombardia, which is one of the nicest Classics of the season,” he said, looking ahead. “I know with these problems, I can maybe go to the Tour, but not at 100 percent. Even if I do this, I will finish the Tour completely empty and that will mean I will do everything – the Tour and the end of the season – at 80 percent.
“So at this point, I have to make a choice to skip the Tour. My first objective is to feel healthy again and not feel the pain anymore.”
He had been racing in the Tour de Suisse but has withdrawn from that event. The BMC Racing Team will announce the eight riders to support van Garderen after that race ends on Sunday.