Illness has forced star triathlete Craig Alexander out of Ironman Australia, robbing the event of its top drawcard and severely disrupting his upcoming schedule.
The two-time Hawaiian Ironman champion confirmed to AAP on Thursday he had to pull out of Sunday's race at Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast.
"I've somehow picked up a viral infection," he said.
"I was hoping for a minor miracle this week, I've had it for about two-and-a-half weeks and I think I'm coming out of the other side of it.
"But it's early season and I don't want to do anything that's going to jeopardise the rest of my season.
"Obviously with a viral infection, the main concern is it can move to your heart muscle."
This was to be the first time in several years the Australian would compete in a second Ironman-distance race, other than the famed Hawaiian race in October.
Hawaii has stricter qualifying rules and Alexander's fourth placing there last year meant he had to validate his berth by competing in a second Ironman this year.
Alexander now must decide on another Ironman race and admits it will not be an easy decision.
"That's a good question - I have given it some thought, but I haven't really come up with a good answer," he said.
"Obviously I felt the best scenario was the one I was undertaking, which was to do this Ironman and then go to America and do a whole lot of short races.
"That's not the case now."
Alexander will probably now aim for a June or early July Ironman triathlon in the United States.
The Ironman distances are a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km marathon run.
His 2008 and '09 Hawaiian titles made him the first Australian to win triathlon's most famous race twice.
The extreme physical demands of the Ironman triathlon meant Alexander could not risk going into Sunday's race while still recovering from the illness.
He had also been focussed on winning his first Ironman Australia title.
"It's not like it's a little jog around the block I'm trying to do, it's an Ironman and I'm not interested in racing if I can't race to my level," he said.
"I wasn't here to qualify, I was here to win."
"It was a difficult decision ... last November, I decided I wanted to race an Ironman in Australia, especially with the new (Hawaiian Ironman) qualification rules.
"Being a past champion in Hawaii, having to validate my spot by doing another full-distance race, I thought what better way to do it than in Australia."
But Alexander was philosophical about the setback.
"It's an obstacle, but when you put it in perspective, I haven't missed a race because of injury or illness for 10 years," he said.
"I've had a pretty good run."