Team Sky officials have confirmed that soigneur Txema Gonzalez has died in Seville, five days after he was taken to hospital with a virus that developed into a sepsis blood infection.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: "We are devastated to report that Txema tragically passed away on Friday evening in hospital in Seville. His close family were with him."
Brailsford paid tribute to the friendly 43 year-old Spaniard, adding: "Txema will be remembered as a warm-hearted colleague who was a joy to work with and was universally respected by our team and throughout the pro cycling scene. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."
The Vuelta director general, Javier Guillen told Spanish public television of Gonzalez’s death just a few minutes after the end of the seventh stage won by Alessandro Petacchi.
"It's a real blow, we knew that he was in a critical condition but we didn’t imagine it would come to this,” he said.
Guillen said a minute’s silence would be held in memory of Gonzalez before the start of Saturday’s eighth stage of the Vuelta.
“He was part of the Vuelta and it is the least we can do.”
According to reports in Spanish media, race doctors at the Vuelta believe the virus which has struck Team Sky may have originated from a food source but Gonzalez’s health deteriorated rapidly after he developed a blood infection.
Spain's Juan Antonio Flecha was forced to abandon the Vuelta during Friday’s seventh stage. John Lee Augustyn and Ben Swift pulled out on stage three and other riders and staff have been affected by a viral infection. However Team Sky said the infection that led to Gonzalez’s death had nothing to do with the viral infection affecting the riders.
Team Sky's Head of Medical Dr Steve Peters said: "Txema contracted a bacterial infection which entered the bloodstream and developed into sepsis. The toxins from this had damaged the organs in his body and he went into septic shock and unfortunately succumbed to that.”
"I should also clarify that this bacterial infection has nothing to do with the viral infection which many of the team have suffered with in Spain, causing stomach upset."
Cyclingnews offers its condolences to his family and the team.