LONDON, May 31, 2013 (AFP) – Defending champion Bradley Wiggins has been ruled out of the Tour de France due to a knee injury.

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford said: “With illness, injury and treatment Brad has gone past the point where he can be ready for the Tour.

“It’s a big loss but, given these circumstances, we won’t consider him for selection.”

The British cyclist’s challenge at the Giro d’Italia faded after he was hit by a chest infection and a knee problem.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said he expected the decision but was slightly surprised.

“We had a feeling it was coming,” said Prudhomme.

“It’s a half surprise even a quarter of a surprise after he pulled out of the Giro. I was in England last week and the press gave the impression that it was more serious than we first thought,”

“He hasn’t had great results this season even if he was getting stronger at the beginning of the Giro, with the victory in the team time-trial.

“It is not that rare (for a defending champion to pull out), especially during the 80′s. It was thanks to Bernard (Hinault) pulling out in 1983 that we got to see Laurent Fignon’s victory,” he added about the late Frenchman.

“Wiggins will undoubtedly be more motivated at the start of the 2014 Tour which begins in Yorkshire.” concluded Prudhomme.

Wiggins had been scheduled to ride in support of Team Sky leader Chris Froome in the 100th edition of the Tour de France, which starts in Corsica on June 29, but Brailsford said a lack of training time meant the Briton would miss out.

During his period of recuperation after the Giro, Wiggins was unable to train with any intensity and wasn’t in shape to compete at this month’s Criterium du Dauphine or Tour of Switzerland.

“He hasn’t been able to train hard since the Giro and now he needs further rest. Whilst we all know these things happen in sport, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a huge disappointment for everyone in the team – and above all for Brad,” said Brailsford.

“It’s incredibly sad to have the reigning champion at Team Sky but not lining up at the Tour. But he’s a champion, a formidable athlete and will come back winning as he has before.”

Wiggins said it was a “huge disappointment not to make the Tour”.

“I desperately wanted be there, for the team and for all the fans along the way – but it’s not going to happen.

“I can’t train the way I need to train and I’m not going to be ready. Once you accept that, it’s almost a relief not having to worry about the injury and the race against time.

“I’ve been through this before, when I broke my collarbone, so I know how it works. I’ll get this sorted, set new goals for this season and focus on those.”

Team doctor Richard Freeman said Wiggins’ chest infection had “completely cleared up”.

“However, further medical investigations on the knee injury that we were managing at the Giro showed the condition was more significant than we thought,” Freeman said.

“It has needed intensive treatment and, whilst it will be fully resolved, Bradley now needs to rest completely for five days before a gradual, return to full training over a period of two to three weeks.”