Withdraw from the Giro….
It is with huge sadness, frustration, and pain that I'm leaving the Giro today. Like the nine previous Grand Tours that I've started and finished, this Giro has been filled with ups and downs and pushed me beyond the limit of what I thought was possible. Unfortunately, I've been battling some health issues off and on since the first rest day that have me to the point where I need to prioritize my health and long-term well-being over my current ambition and drive to support the team and finish another Grand Tour.
I knew something was wrong at the start of Sunday’s Stage 15. On the first climb, I was wheezing, unable to breathe and had no power in the legs. I was able to recover once the profile flattened out and the pace slowed. I felt optimistic I could ride through it. When we decided mid-race that we would take the bull by the horns and trim back the breakaway’s lead for a shot at the stage win with Simon, I was excited and eager to get on the front with my teammates and ramp it up. As we launched into our first pull, I immediately knew something was not right. Again, I was unable to expand my lungs and breathe. After one pull of my own, I was immediately plummeted back to the bunch. I suffered desperately to hang on for the following hour, hoping that I could survive until the next climb when a grupetto would inevitably form.
I couldn't even make it that far and was the first rider dropped, only re-joining a few other dropped riders in the lead into the Ghisallo. Once on the climb, even at grupetto pace, which amounts to what I would usually do on a casual, friendly ride, I was again suffering and dropped by the sprinters who were comfortably talking and discussing the time cut.
I suffered and battled to stay with them over the next three climbs, counting down the kilometers and minutes, which felt like an eternity just to get to the finish. I kept telling myself, “get to the rest day and then you'll come back and be there for the guys on Stage 16 and into the final week.”
I finished completely shattered.
The rest day came, but I had a sleepless and restless night. After some additional testing and evaluation, as well as knowing the stages to come, the medical, management team, and I made the tough call to leave the Giro. My health is a priority, but additionally, I would serve little purpose to the team just hanging on the back in the same condition.
I've built my career on being dependable, durable, versatile, and tenacious. Having so few DNFs attached to my name and having a 100 percent finish record at Grand Tours was something I am proud of. I've pushed through some grim, miserable moments and fought my way through days and hours spent on my knees thinking that it was over, only to arrive on the other side. To some extent, this battle and the growth that comes along with it is what is so fascinating about these races. Knowing this, as well as that feeling of conquering these moments, makes leaving even harder.
My season has been built around this race. Even my arrival to Mitchelton-Scott was heavily influenced by being at the Giro to support the team and Simon’s bid for a pink jersey. The team supported me in the path to get here. I prepared with steadfast commitment and worked extremely hard to arrive here in great condition for the role the team needed me in. I've left everything on the road up up until this point and it feels like shit leaving the guys out there, one-man down. I know they will be suffering tomorrow and in the days to come, and it doesn't feel right that I won't be there suffering and fighting alongside them. Even if it is the right call in terms of my overall and long-term health, that doesn't make it any easier. I wish them all the best and look forward to when I can be back alongside them at 100 percent.