Richie Porte will no longer ride next month’s Giro d’Italia.
The 29-year-old Australian had been preparing to mount a bid for overall victory at the year's first Grand Tour, but he has been withdrawn from Team Sky’s plans to focus instead on supporting Chris Froome at the Tour de France.
Porte’s season so far has been badly disrupted by illness, with a bout of gastroenteritis forcing him to quit March’s Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya stage races early.
Those setbacks left him well behind schedule in his preparations for the Giro, which starts in Belfast on May 9 and concludes in Trieste on June 1.
Team Sky’s head of performance support, Tim Kerrison, said: “Richie was always going to ride the Tour de France this year, but this now means that he can fully focus on being in the best possible shape without having the added challenge of having to ride the Giro as well.
“He played an invaluable role in our Tour wins in 2012 and 2013 and we want him to do the same again this year.”
Although Porte will miss out on the chance to lead Team Sky for the first time in a Grand Tour, his omission is good news for Froome, who will now have his chief lieutenant available for the Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine, which are key warm-up races for the Tour de France.
Team Sky have not announced who will now lead the team at the Giro. Sergio Henao would have been the likeliest candidate, but the Colombian has been temporarily withdrawn from racing while anomalous doping test results are investigated.
Team Sky have also revealed that Sir Bradley Wiggins will lead an eight-man squad at the four-day Giro del Trentino in Italy from April 22-25.
Prior to that, the 33-year-old Briton will ride both Scheldeprijs on Wednesday and Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. He will be joined in a nine-man Paris-Roubaix squad by Geraint Thomas, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Gabriel Rasch and Luke Rowe.