Bradley Wiggins Quits Cycling’s Giro d’Italia Because of Illness

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins quit the Giro d’Italia because of a worsening chest infection. Ryder Hesjedal, the Italian race’s defending champion, also withdrew due to illness.

Wiggins, 33, won’t start today’s 13th stage and will return to the U.K. for treatment, his Team Sky squad said on its website. Hesjedal said in a Garmin-Sharp team statement he may have caught a “virus that’s been going around.”

Wiggins in October targeted the Giro -- cycling’s biggest stage race after the Tour de France -- as his priority for 2013 and had entered the race as the bookmakers’ favorite. He was in 13th place after yesterday’s 12th stage, five minutes, 22 seconds behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali. There are 21 stages.

“We monitored Bradley overnight and this morning we’ve withdrawn him from the Giro after consulting the team doctor,” Team Sky manager David Brailsford said on the website. “His chest infection has been getting worse and our primary concern is always the health of our riders.”

Wiggins, a seven-time Olympic medalist, had crashed on a rain-soaked descent during the seventh stage, losing 1:29 to Nibali and other race contenders.

The Briton is also scheduled to compete in the Tour de France which starts June 29.

Hesjedal, who became the first Canadian to win one of cycling’s major three-week races at last year’s Giro, said yesterday’s 83-mile stage (134-kilometer) was “just too much for me.” He had been suffering for four stages, his team said.

Hesjedal was 38th in the overall standings, almost 33 minutes behind Nibali.

“I tried my best to honor the number one bib number, the race, my team and fans,” Hesjedal, 32, said. “It’s devastating to leave this way. Going home now is heartbreaking.”