Defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) has withdrawn from the Tour de France.
The Colombian leaked more time on Stage 16 to sit over 19 minutes behind GC leader Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma), having seen his yellow jersey hopes evaporate in the second week.
“We have taken this decision with Egan’s best interests at heart,” said Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford.
“Egan is a true champion who loves to race, but he is also a young rider, with many Tours ahead of him and at this point, on balance, we feel it is wiser for him to stop racing.”
Bernal became the youngest winner of the Tour since World War II when he carted the yellow jersey down the Champs-Elysees in 2019.
He was expected to have a three-way scrap for leadership duties in France this summer, only for Ineos to omit previous champions Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome from their roster – with Thomas leaving Ineos red-faced by finishing second at Tirreno–Adriatico.
“This is obviously not how I wanted my Tour de France to end, but I agree that it is the right decision for me in the circumstances,” said Bernal.
“I have the greatest respect for this race and I am already looking forward to coming back in the years ahead.”
Jumbo-Visma have replaced Ineos as the dominant force in the peloton, setting a brutal pace at key points to catapult Roglic into yellow.
Roglic leads fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) by 40 seconds with four competitive stages remaining, plus the procession into Paris.