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Monday, July 3, 2006
High fever forces Di Luca out of Tour de France

Associated Press

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.