Two Team Sky riders were forced to abandon the Vuelta a España through illness yesterday and the team has confirmed that a number of riders and staff have been stricken by illness since the race started in Seville on Saturday.
John-Lee Augustyn and Ben Swift pulled out of the race during yesterday’s stage, while Simon Gerrans and Peter Kennaugh just barely made it through the sweltering conditions on the road to Málaga. Meanwhile, three members of the squad’s backroom staff are also suffering from illness.
Team principal Dave Brailsford is at a loss to explain the illness. “It’s basically that they can’t stop vomiting, but we don’t think that it’s food poisoning,” he told Reuters. “We’ve got out own chef and the riders and staff eat separately and we’re always very vigilant about hygiene.”
The riders began to feel ill on Sunday night, after stage two to Marbella. Ben Swift had finished in 7th place on the day’s stage before coming down with illness that evening.
"Ben had even said he felt great [on Sunday] - it just came on during the night; they had fevers and were throwing up everywhere,” Brailsford explained.
The soaring temperatures on Monday’s stage did not help the ill riders’ cause and John-Lee Augustyn was the first to succumb to the illness as he abandoned soon after the start. Swift lasted a further 100km before being forced out of the race.
“It's a massive blow for John-Lee and for Swifty too, a guy who's really started to show good form. For him to lose out now is a real, real shame,” Brailsford said.
The illness sweeping through the team has also forced Brailsford to redraw his squad’s ambitions, at least for the next few days. “Right now, we want to try and keep the team afloat,” he admitted. “Then we’ll see what happens.”
Simon Gerrans and Peter Kennaugh each lost over 25 minutes on yesterday’s stage but both managed to stay in the race. Afterwards, Gerrans described the stage as being “possibly the worst day on the bike in my life.”
The 2009 Vuelta stage winner announced via Twitter that he will be on the start line again today, however, in spite of anticipated temperatures in excess of 30 degrees out on the road.
“I’m back, a couple of kilos less of a man than I was, but I’m back all the same. Expecting another tough day again today…”