Team Sky director Sir Dave Brailsford says the condition of Bradley Wiggins will be assessed overnight after the ailing Briton lost further ground on Vincenzo Nibali in the race for the overall lead in the Giro d'Italia.
Wiggins, who has been suffering from a cold and chest infection, was visibly below-par in today's rain-hit 12th stage from Longarone to Treviso, which was won by his compatriot Mark Cavendish.
Wiggins finished more than three minutes behind Cavendish and the rest of the leading group, which included pink jersey holder Nibali. After his miserable afternoon, Wiggins plummeted to 13th place in the overall standings and is now five minutes and 22 seconds off the lead.
The 33-year-old's hopes of adding the Giro to his Tour de France win of last year now appear remote at best, and his team will not shy away from withdrawing him from the action if they deem that to be the best course of action.
“Brad developed a head cold and a chest infection and has been on antibiotics,” Brailsford said on the Team Sky website. “His illness has got progressively worse and we knew ahead of the race this morning it was going to be tough for him to get through the stage.
”When you see a rider of Bradley Wiggins' calibre struggling to hold the wheel in front of him on the flat you know that he's ill. When you're ill you're ill and all you can do is your best to try and manage that illness. I think he showed great courage to battle through the stage to the finish.
“Now we'll get back to the hotel and the team doctor will assess him overnight and then we'll take a decision about whether Brad continues, health-permitting, in the morning. It's a testament to Brad that he has said he wants to continue in the race and carry on to Brescia with the team.”
With all the leading riders bar Wiggins in the chasing group at the end of today's stage, Nibali maintained his 41-second overall advantage over Australian Cadel Evans, with Team Sky's Colombian Rigoberto Uran still third, two minutes and four seconds off the pace.
The race continues on Friday with its longest stage, a 254km trek from Busseto to Cherasco.