Aspen Cyclist Van Garderen Pulls Out Of Olympic Consideration, Citing Zika

Photo: Tejay van Garderen, Tour de France, 17th Stage
A teammate helps Tejay van Garderen of the U.S., left, after he fell ill during the 17th stage of the Tour de France.

American cyclist Tejay van Garderen has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Rio Olympics amid concerns that he may contract the Zika virus and pass it along to his pregnant wife, The Associated Press reports. He is believed to be the first athlete to back out of the Summer Olympics because of the mosquito-borne illness.

Here's the statement on van Garderen from USA Cycling, via NPR:

"After thinking long and hard about the Olympic Games in Rio, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for selection in the U.S. team. Although the risks associated with the Zika Virus can be minimal and precautions can be taken, my wife Jessica is pregnant, and I don't want to risk bringing anything back that could potentially have an effect."

A Bozeman, Montana, native who now calls Aspen home, he was a member of the 2010 Olympic team and would have been a likely choice for one of the two spots on the U.S. road team this year. He is a strong time trial rider and his climbing ability would have been well-suited to the hilly course at the Rio Olympics.

Van Garderen won the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado twice, and placed fifth in the Tour de France in 2014 and in 2012. Last year, he was forced out of the Tour by illness, at a moment when he ranked third in the race's overall standings. 

USA Cycling is expected to announce its road team June 24. You can read van Garderen's full USA Cycling bio here.