Cycling: Tour champ Wiggins pulls out of Giro

Britain has chest infection, reigning champ Hesjedal out too

Cycling: Tour champ Wiggins pulls out of Giro

Rome, May 17 - Pre-race favourite Bradley Wiggins pulled out of the Giro d'Italia before the 13th stage on Friday because of a chest infection. The world's second-biggest stage race also lost reigning champ Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, with his Garmin-Sharp team saying he had withdrawn because he was felling unwell. Tour champion and 2012 Olympic time-trial gold medallist looked strong at the start of the Giro, but he gradually slipped out of contention after losing time because of crashes, bad luck and health problems. The 33-year-old Briton, who won three track cycling Olympics gold medals before focusing on road racing after the 2008 Games in Beijing, was 13th overall, 5:22 behind Italian leader Vincenzo Nibali, after losing over three minutes on Thursday's 12th stage. "We monitored Bradley overnight and this morning we've withdrawn him from the Giro after consulting the team doctor," Team Sky's Team Principal Dave Brailsford said of the condition of Britain's first Tour de France winner. "His chest infection has been getting worse and our primary concern is always the health of our riders. "Bradley will return to the UK today for treatment and to rest and we hope to have him back on the road as soon as possible. "As a passionate racer he wanted to continue but he is simply unable to do so on medical grounds". The withdrawal ends Wiggins' bid to become the first rider to pull off the Giro-Tour double since the late Marco Pantini in 1998. Hesjedal was even further back in the standings than Wiggins, lying 38th, 32 minutes, 55 seconds behind Nibali, who is 41 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, former Tour champion and world champion Cadel Evans of Australia. "We're not sure what's wrong," said Hesjedal. "There's a virus that's been going around, so it could be that, or severe allergies". The three-week Giro finishes in Brescia on May 26.

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