Team Sky’s tough battle with a mystery illness at the Vuelta a Espana continued on Thursday as Juan Antonio Flecha said he was feeling rough at the start of stage six.

“He’s feeling really wishy-washy, says he’s got no energy at all,” sports director Rod Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly just minutes before the start, “he looks pretty much like death warmed up.”

Ellingworth had previously confirmed that it seemed the Tour of Spain team was by and large on the road to recovery after the illness forced two riders to abandon on stage three.

“They’re feeling better again, but we’re not going to push it for now,” Ellingworth told Cycling Weekly earlier on Thursday.

“If they’re feeling up for it, we’ll have a go on that final climb,” – a short second cat. ascent 17 kilometres from the finish in Murcia, where Sky’s Simon Gerrans won last year – “but for that next week’s pretty tough, so the next two or three days are more about recovery.”

But Flecha’s illness, although the Spaniard is expected to start, could indicate that the team is not yet completely out of the woods.

Prior to the latest setback, Ellingworth had said stage five on Wednesday was the first one since Sunday without any Sky riders being ill at all.

“We were fine in the team time trial and on the first road stage, but then we had six throwing up from stage two onwards.”

“Some of them started getting sick during the night, although Pete Kennaugh was ill on the bike and then felt fine the next evening, but threw up again all day yesterday [Tuesday].”

“Thomas [Lovkvist] didn’t get ill, but he had no energy. Flecha too.”

“But it’s been tough on Ben [Swift] and John [Lee Augustyn]” – the two riders to have abandoned so far.

“They knew if they could get through the day, they might be all right, but Ben was throwing up in the middle of the night, and the last thing you want to do after that is get on your bike, specially when it’s been so hot.”

Several members of staff were badly affected, with one team soigneur ‘abandoning’ because of the illness.

“I got it a bit, I felt really ill on the third day, and [sports director] Marcus [Ljungvist] was driving with a bag next to him in the team car, he was so bad.”

“[Sports scientist] Tim Kerrison was laid out for nearly two days and Txema, our Spanish soigneur, was so ill he’s had to go home.”

Ellingworth is convinced it is unlikely to have been food poisoning, because none of the riders affected had diarrhea, although all of them have had high temperatures.

“We’re going to find out what it was, get blood tests. We’ve been very unlucky and we’ll just have to take it on the day by day.”

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A href=”http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest/497485/sky-s-vuelta-team-fall-sick-with-mystery-illness.html”>Sky’s Vuelta team fall sick with mystery illness

Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index