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High fever forces Di Luca out of Tour de France

7/3/2006

ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, Luxembourg -- Italian rider Danilo di Luca
just can't seem to catch a break in cycling's biggest races.

A high fever on Monday made the Agritubel team leader the first
rider to drop out of the Tour de France, a day after he slogged
across the finish line of the first stage 2½ minutes behind the
main pack.

The 30-year-old Italian -- nicknamed the Leonardo di Caprio of
cycling -- has struggled in the Grand Tours of France, Italy and
Spain over the years. He's started 10 and finished just three.

The manager of Di Luca's Liquigas team, Amadio Roberto, said the
rider had spent an agonizing night with a prostate problem, his
fever rising to more than 102 degrees.

A dose of strong antibiotics wasn't enough, and in Saturday's
prologue "he was just dead," Roberto said. "He was just no
longer in any condition to ride."

The rider was frustrated, but still kept his morale high as he
headed home to Italy, Roberto added.

Di Luca's exit means that four of the Tour's 20 teams are now
leaderless. T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso of Team CSC and
AG2R's Francisco Mancebo were barred from racing on the eve of the
Tour due to doping allegations.