Team Sky rider Richie Porte has revealed a chest infection has been behind his sudden loss of form at the Tour de France.
The 29-year-Australian, who took over as team leader after Chris Froome crashed out on stage five, had been second overall at the end of stage 12, 2min 23sec behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali.
However, he subsequently lost a total of 13min 40sec to the Italian on back-to-back summit finishes in the Alps on Friday and Saturday, first dropping 8min 48sec on stage 13 and then a further 4min 52sec on stage 14.
Porte attributed his collapse on stage 13 to struggling in the hot temperatures, but after stage 14 he clarified that he has been ill for more than a week.
"I have not been feeling 100 per cent so I went on antibiotics to try and knock the infection on the head," Porte told teamsky.com. "I have been feeling it on my lungs and I haven’t been breathing well.
'One of those things'
"All the guys have been riding so strongly for me, but this bug has really taken it out of me. It’s just one of those things unfortunately."
Porte has long held ambitions to become a team leader at a Grand Tour but passed up on the chance to spearhead Team Sky at this year’s Giro d’Italia in order to support Chris Froome’s defence of his Tour title.
When Froome crashed out, Porte suddenly found himself with the opportunity to challenge for cycling’s biggest prize, but any hopes he had of winning the yellow jersey quickly evaporated in the Alps.
"It’s really disappointing, especially as this was my first real chance to show what I could do in the Tour," Porte added.
"I’m going to take things day by day but I really want to complete the Tour and hopefully I’ll be able to make it to Paris."