Sky soigneur on Vuelta dies of bacterial infection

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Team Sky has reported that its Spanish soigneur Txema Gonzalez, 43, has died of septic shock, a condition brought on by a bacterial infection, on Friday afternoon.

Gonzalez was present with the team when the race started in Seville but was forced to go into hospital as a result of the illness, which coincided with the entire team and several members of team staff going down with a severe stomach infection.

The Spaniard was due to return to his home in Vitoria, on the other side of Spain, on Thursday but the ambulance which was taking him turned round after fifty kilometres and returned back to the hospital as his condition suddenly worsened.

The team also pointed out that Gonzalez's illness was in no way connected to the viral infection that hit the entire squad and which has seen three of their riders abandon, including Juan Antonio Flecha on stage seven.

A former soigneur with several Spanish amateur teams, as well as Saunier Duval, Euskaltel-Euskadi - for eight years - and Mercatone Uno before he joined Sky, Gonzalez was a familiar and friendly face at the finishes of races as he waited for the riders to arrive.

He himself had been a an amateur rider with top Spanish squad KAS before he became a soigneur.

"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," said Dave Brailsford in a press release, "[and] our thoughts are with his family and friends."

In an interview with Gonzalez published a couple of years ago, he described his job by saying "you've got to like it. If not, you're in trouble."

"It's not just about giving massages. We're the team staff who have most contact with the riders."

"We listen to them, we cheer them up, sometimes we calm them down and sometimes we do just the opposite too, we push them a little bit when we need to so they get their act together."

A minute's silence will be held before Saturday's stage start.

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