Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen became the latest sprint star to fall victim to the gruelling Alpine stages of the Tour de France after pulling out on stage 12 on Thursday.
“A two-time stage winner in the opening week, Groenewegen has just abandoned,” said a brief statement by race organisers.
The Lotto-Jumbo rider, who claimed his maiden stage win last year with a famous victory on the Champs Elysees, was competing in his third Tour de France.
The 25-year-old from Amsterdam began his campaign in style, winning stages seven and eight.
But a struggling Groenewegen was forced to call it a day before the halfway stage of the torturous 175.5 km stage between Bourg Saint Maurice and Alpe d’Huez.
On Wednesday, British sprint star Mark Cavendish and his Australian teammate at Dimension Data, Mark Renshaw, as well as Katusha star Marcel Kittel – all sprinters – were eliminated after failing to make the time cut.
Kittel, a 14-time stage winner, and Renshaw both finished just under 45 minutes behind stage 11 winner Geraint Thomas of Team Sky.
Cavendish, a 30-time stage winner who had been chasing Eddy Merckx’s record tally of 34 wins, crossed the line 1hr 05min 33sec behind compatriot Thomas.
Earlier, Thursday Tony Gallopin, a key helper for podium-chasing teammate Romain Bardet, pulled out to leave his AG2R team with just five riders.
Last year’s runner-up Rigoberto Uran, of EF-Drapac, also abandoned as he continued to suffer from injuries suffered in a crash in the opening week.