Tour de France stars with illness woes

Andy Schleck, Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Tour de France 2009, stage 20

Alberto Contador is suffering from hay fever, Mark Cavendish had a brief encounter with the ‘flu and Lance Armstrong has still got form problems after a stomach bug - but they're far from being the only Tour de France stars going through a difficult patch.

Sky's Bradley Wiggins failed to make it to the start of the Tour of Catalonia because of gastroenteritis and has been forced to rethink his April schedule as a result.

Next Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), two places ahead of Wiggins in last year's Tour, went down with a severe stomach upset on the first night of Catalonia and pulled out. Then two days later, last year's Giro winner, Denis Menchov (Rabobank), quit the same race because of hay fever, too.

Schleck, Menchov and - possibly - Wiggins will now take part in the Tour of the Basque Country in a bid to put their racing back on track, whilst Contador has opted for the marginally easier Tour of Castille and Leon. Armstrong's next race is probably Amstel Gold.

"It's a pity for Bradley because he was motivated for Catalunya and the guys in the team were really up for it, but it's better that these things happen now than later," Sky road coach Rod Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly.

"There was always bound to be a period where something wasn't going according to plan, but overall he's still on track for July."

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