Paris - British sprinter Mark Cavendish withdrew from the Tour de France on
Tuesday to focus on his bid for a first Olympic medal at the Rio Games
in just over two weeks.
The 31-year-old won four stages this year
and now has 30 in the bag overall, meaning the "Manx Missile" is
creeping up on Belgian legend Eddy Merckx and the all-time record of 34
There are five stages left in the race this year, four
of which are in the Alps, but Cavendish will not now be starting stage
17 on Wednesday.
"After an extremely enjoyable and successful
couple of weeks at the Tour de France with Team Dimension Data, it is
with great sadness that I took the decision today to leave the race,"
Cavendish said in a statement.
"After the heat and intensity of
the previous stages, we analysed my fatigue levels and decided I'm at a
point that would have a detrimental effect on my other big goal for the
year, the Olympic Games.
"To leave a race and organisation that I
hold so much respect for and a team that I have such a special bond
with has not been an easy decision at all."
Douglas Ryder, the team principal, paid tribute to Cavendish and said he respected his decision.
managed to put on his first ever yellow jersey and to carry the green
jersey into the first rest day in Andorra was just exceptional," he
"He has been a great team leader over the past two weeks
and a great ambassador for everyone involved in this team and for the
greater cause we ride for.
"Mark is really sad to leave the tour,
we are committed to support him in his dream goal of receiving a medal
for Britain at the Rio Olympic Games."
Australian Rohan Dennis similarly quit the Tour on Tuesday's rest day to concentrate on his Olympic preparations.
26, who won the opening stage time trial at the Tour last year and wore
the race leader's yellow jersey for a day, was sitting 126th overall at
more than two and a half hours behind leader Chris Froome.
The Rio Games start on August 5.