Greg Avermaet suspects being vaccinated against the coronavirus may explain his current poor form, saying that results of recent blood tests “show that something’s not right with my immune system.”
Speaking to the Gazet Van Antwerpen after yesterday’s individual time trial at the Benelux Tour, the former Olympic road champion said: “My body is fighting an unknown enemy and it could be the vaccine. The results of blood tests really aren’t good.
“The blood values are the same as always and this should confirm my form, but other values show that there’s something not right with my immune system.”
The 36 year old, who has received a double dose of the Pfizer vaccine, continued: “I’m sleeping well, I’m training well and I feel well, but I’m missing that 3 per cent to be at my best.
“Normally, in a time trial like this I’m in the first 20,” explained van Avermaet, who finished 104th, ceding 1 minute 31 seconds to stage winner Steffan Bissegger of EF Education-Nippo over the 11.1km parcours in Lelystad.
“The good news is that I know something’s wrong, but on the other hand little research has been carried out on the effect of the vaccine on athletes’ bodies.”
Van Avermaet’s big goal for this season is Paris-Roubaix, a race he won in 2017 and which is postponed this year until 3 October, but the Belgian accepts that he may be forced to miss the race as well as a world championships on home soil in Flanders the previous week.
“In the coming days I’m going to see some doctors and take their advice,” he said. “If that means I have to stop racing, so be it.
“At the moment there’s no sense talking about the world championships. There are many Belgians who are riding more strongly than me and who therefore are more deserving of being called up,” he added.
Van Avermaet is not the first top professional cyclist to raise concerns about the effects of the vaccine on his performance.
In July, following the Tour de France, Astana-Premier Tech’s Jakob Fuglsang, who did not start the final stage of the race due to illness and sat 38th overall following the previous day’s individual time trial, said he believed that being vaccinated lay behind his lacklustre performance in the three-week race.
“The only explanation that we can find is that I had my second COVID vaccination after the Tour de Suisse and that it’s limiting me and my body is still working on it. I got my first shot after the Classics and I did tests at a Tenerife training camp and I had high lactate for my power and in Switzerland I was good,” he told Cyclingnews.com.
“Then I got the second shot and a second test in the race showed the same results that I had in Tenerife, that my numbers are basically where they are in December or even worse. That’s just how it is but at some point, it will go away and that’s what we’re waiting for.
“My general feeling is okay. I don’t feel that bad but I can’t push myself to my limit. I feel limited that I’m not able to push my body like I normally I can. That’s meant that I’ve not destroyed myself and I don’t feel as tired.”
Meanwhile, Fuglsang’s team confirmed today that he has undergone successful surgery after breaking his collarbone on Monday's opening stage of the Benelux Tour.
‘’Being disappointed is an understatement,” he said. “The season hasn’t been great as everyone knows, but after the Olympics I trained so hard and felt in good shape for the final part of the season, with Il Lombardia my main goal.
“It’s pretty sure that my season is done, that’s a hard one to swallow but something I have to accept. I want to thank our medical team which arranged my surgery immediately here in Belgium, so I can now start my recovery.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.