Teejay van Garderen is America’s best hope for a cycling medal at the Rio Olympics this summer, and now he won’t be attending the games. Van Garderen withdrew his name from consideration for the road cycling team Thursday, becoming the first athlete back out of the games because of the Zika virus.
Van Garderen’s wife is pregnant, and while he acknowledged the chances of him contracting the illness are slim the risk just wasn’t worth it.
“I don’t want to risk bringing anything back that could potentially have an effect. If the circumstances were different I would have loved to be selected again to represent the USA, but my family takes priority and it’s a decision I’m completely comfortable with.”
Van Garderen has twice finished fifth in the Tour de France and was in third place after 17 stages in 2015 before withdrawing due to an illness. The 27-year-old has slowly climbed the ranks to be one of the world’s best cyclists, so this is an enormous blow to Team USA.
This is the first, but almost certainly not the last, withdrawal from the Rio Olympics over Zika fears. As I have documented over the past several weeks, the problems with the 2016 games a legion and have yet to be addressed adequately. I believe the games must be canceled or postponed, but am also nearly 100 percent certain that won’t happen.