Andy Schleck pulls out of Paris-Nice race because of illness

Associated Press

3/6/2012 9:57:23 AM

PARIS -- Andy Schleck pulled out of the Paris-Nice race ahead of Tuesday's third stage because of a stomach virus.

His RadioShack-Nissan team said Schleck was already suffering from gastroenteritis when he finished Monday's flat second stage from Mantes-la-Jolie to Orleans.

The 26-year-old Luxembourg rider said he preferred not to take any risks by continuing in the race.

"I really wanted to try. But against sickness you cannot do a lot," Schleck said. "I need to let my body recover from this. This is bad news, I wanted to perform well in Paris-Nice, but I better not jeopardize the rest of the season. My goals are situated later in the season."

Schleck finished second in the 2010 Tour de France and stands to inherit the title after Alberto Contador was stripped of his victory because of a positive doping test. Schleck is one of the favourites for this year's French classic as well.

Schleck was in 155th place after two stages, and trailed race leader Bradley Wiggins by 12 minutes, 1 second -- too big a gap to make up in a weeklong race, even with Schleck's climbing skills.

"He was able to finish (Monday's) stage but that cost a lot of energy," team director Alain Gallopin said. "This morning Andy felt better, but in the bus he got stomach problems and high temperature again. That's why we decided not to let him take the start."

Gallopin expects Schleck to be back racing soon.

"As far as Andy is concerned, he will go home and rest," Gallopin said. "If everything goes well he will join us in the South of France later this week and go on the Tour of Catalunya."

His older brother, the 31-year-old Frank Schleck, will take the start for the mostly flat 194-kilometre (120.3-mile) third stage from Vierzon to Le Lac de Vassiviere, which finishes with two small category 3 climbs.