Bradley Wiggins' withdrawal from the 2013 Giro d'Italia came as little surprise to most after the designated Sky leader slowly but surely dropped down the standings after crashes, illness and subsequent time losses ended his dreams of overall victory in the Italian three-week race.
Wiggins left Italy after making the decision to withdraw that was backed by team management and medical staff following his struggle to finish with the main group on Stage 12 - won by compatriot Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick Step). The 2012 Tour de France champion crossed the line 3:17 behind his former teammate on what should have been a relatively standard finish for the Sky leader.
His worsening condition meant that he was forced to make a tough decision; to continue racing the Giro without any hope of challenging for the overall title and risk longer-term health damage or to quit, head home for treatment and refocus on defending his Tour de France crown. He chose the later despite the heart-breaking feeling of leaving the race he had expected to challenge for the win.
"I'm disappointed, but some things you can't control," Wiggins told Sky Italia before flying back to the United Kingdom. "It's really disappointing to stop in this way because we came here for so much more.
"It's how long you can keep fighting for before you say the GC has gone now," he added.
Continuing at the Giro when not at full strength and with the weight of expectation on one's shoulders is not an easy battle to win and if Wiggins had any chance of defeating the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Cadel Evans (BMC), he would need to be 100 percent fit and healthy.
"It's hard to be part of the Giro just to be a number because everybody expected so much. There are a lot of riders in the peloton at the moment that are sick, but as the winner of the Tour, you can't hide away and get over it."
With Wiggins thought to be at the Giro with high hopes for the general and Chris Froome aiming at the Tour - with a leadership title - it will now be an interesting scenario to watch as both riders look to be at their best come July. Last year's overall Tour champion will obviously look to prove the pundits wrong, who criticised his descending and ability to tackle the steep gradients, at the Tour while Froome may also may challenge for the top spot by his elder teammate.
"The decision was made with a view to being back to full strength for the Tour, so I think had we continued in this Giro, the risk was that I did more damage long-term, so I think the team have taken the decision to put a stop to it now and start thinking about getting back to full strength for the Tour."
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