Top American cyclist Tejay van Garderen withdrew from Rio Olympic team consideration due to Zika virus concerns, USA Cycling confirmed Thursday.
Van Garderen, 27, said his wife is pregnant with their second child, according to multiple reports. The U.S. Olympic road cycling team has not yet been named, but Van Garderen competed in the 2012 Olympics and has been one of the elite American Grand Tour riders in recent years.
“If Jessica were not pregnant right now, assuming I was selected, I would go,” van Garderen said, according to Cyclingtips.com. “But the fact is, she is pregnant. If we were just going to start trying, I’d say we could start trying six months after the Olympics. But when she has a baby in her belly, I don’t want to take any chances.”
Van Garderen also said scheduling played a factor ahead of the Rio Games in August, according to Cyclingnews.com.
“I looked at my schedule — I do the Tour de France [in July] and then I get to go home,” he said, according to the report. “I won’t have anything in the back of my mind — having to stay sharp the day after Paris. I can take a breather — I haven’t been home since January — I can spend some time with the family. I’ll come back and race the Vuelta [a España in late August and September].”
Van Garderen finished fifth in the Tour de France in 2012 and 2014, the best American finishes since 2008. He was 104th in the 2012 Olympic road race.
“People are probably going to have different opinions on this. I’m sure they will think what they are going to think, but the fact is, if anything were to happen, I couldn’t live with myself,” van Garderen said, according to Cyclingtips.com. “I’m much more at ease with this decision than I would be if I were trying to go to the Olympics.
“Besides, I don’t think this will be my last chance to go to the Olympics. I’m sure I’ll still be around in four years.”