Team Sky's Vuelta a Espana squad have been hit by a mystery illness that has seen five riders and several members of staff affected.
The illness, which takes the form of severe vomiting, forced Ben Swift and John-Lee Augustyn to abandon on stage three. But they are far from being the only Sky riders to suffer.
"John-Lee and Ben both pulled out because they literally could not continue, they were so ill," team principal Dave Brailsford told the news agency Reuters.
"Another three, [Australian] Simon Gerrans, and [Britons] Ian Stannard and Pete Kennaugh are all really bad, how Simon and Pete got through today I just don't know, they were suffering so much."
Brailsford said that although the symptoms look like food poisoning they are most likely not to be that because "riders and staff eat separately and we've got several members of staff sick" - including Rod Ellingworth and Marcus Ljungqvist.
"We've got our own chef, we're very vigilant about food hygiene, too."
Brailsford said one of the strange symptoms of the illness, which started to affect the team on Saturday, is that it strikes unusually fast.
"Swifty was feeling fine yesterday" - taking seventh in a bunch sprint - "but today he couldn't stop throwing up."
Although their best-placed rider Lars Petter Nordhaug is in a strong position overall, just 1-01 down on race leader Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Brailsford said their current aim in Spain is "damage limitation and keeping the team afloat."
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Related links
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Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
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