Sir Bradley Wiggins's chances of winning the Giro d'Italia or finishing on the podium may be compromised by ill-health, as the Tour de France winner explained after the conclusion of stage 11 in north-east Italy.
"I'm not feeling very good at the moment. I've had a pretty rough 24 hours," Wiggins said after holding on to his fourth place overall at the stage finish at Vajont.
"I've got a chest infection and a head cold. Fortunately on these kind of stages, there's just a bit of fighting and you can get through them and hide a little bit. I just want to try and fight through it and hope that in a few days time I'll be all right. Most of the team has been sick. It seems to last three or four days and then you get better." Most notably, Wiggins's team-mate Dario Cataldo suffered for a couple of days after the race start in Naples, but his strong performance on Tuesday's mountain stage indicated that he had regained his best form.
With the 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal's chances of a repeat victory gone west, his Garmin-Sharp team went on the offensive on Wednesday, and with the overall contenders content to mark each other on the final climb, the American squad claimed victory through their Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas.
He was one of a 20-rider move that went clear after a hectic first hour of racing. No fewer than 20 of the 23 teams were represented and the move was given its head by the race leader, Vincenzo Nibali, and his Astana squad. Only three of the 20 remained to fight out the finish, with Navardauskas escaping eventually with the Italian Daniel Oss and eluding his breakaway companion with five uphill kilometres remaining.
Navardauskas carved out a lead of over a minute at the finish, sited to commemorate a disaster of 50 years ago when a landslide caused a lake to overflow into a valley, killing more than 2,000 people. This was the biggest career win for the 25-year-old, nicknamed the Honey Badger, who last year became the first Lithuanian to wear the pink race leader's jersey in the Giro.
The riders with an interest in the overall standings remained together over the main climb, the long, dragging Sella Ciampigotto, which came midway through the stage, and on the seven-kilometre ascent to the finish they were whittled down to a 26-strong group.
After two days in Friuli, the race now heads westwards across Italy. Thursday's mainly flat leg finishes in Treviso, home of the Pinarello bike company that sponsors Sky and Movistar, while on Friday the finish is in Cherasco in Piedmont, the prelude to a weekend of Alpine climbing. Both stages will have been highlighted in Mark Cavendish's diary given the paucity of opportunities for the sprinters in this year's race.
Wednesday was marked by two positive drugs tests. Ag2R's Frenchman Sylvain Georges was pulled out following a positive for the bronchial dilator heptaminol, while Lampre's Venezuelan Miguel Ubeto – who is not at the Giro – tested positive recently for a new drug called GW1516, a hormone and metabolic modulator which is marketed as an endurance and weight-loss aid but has also been linked with side‑effects such as cancers.
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image: © Bradley Nikolaj