Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin has withdrawn from La Vuelta after struggling for form and fitness.
The Jumbo-Visma cyclist began as the squad's co-leader with Primoz Roglic but struggled in the first three stages.
On Wednesday he confirmed that fatigue, perhaps a hangover of his Tour de France exertions, have ruled him out of the rest of the event.
- Can Carthy 'do a Tao' at La Vuelta?
- Britain's first black cycling champion on his experiences in cycling and what more can be done
- 'Ineos didn’t panic under pressure, but bigger tests await Carapaz' – Contador and Durand
He announced the decision withdraw on Twitter, saying:
We have decided that I will leave the Vuelta. Both our coaching staff and I think it is the best choice to get off the bike. At the start of the Vuelta I already felt tired and that feeling remained. It makes no sense for me to continue.
"Because then I might put a strain on next season. It is not desirable to leave the Vuelta, but this is the right choice. We can all agree on that. With @rogla we are in good shape in the general classification. Hopefully the team can take home the win."
On Tuesday, Dumoulin had hinted that he was having difficulty with fatigue already.
“How is this Vuelta going? Not very good,” Dumoulin said.
“I had hoped to be able to fight here for a good result, but at the moment I am pretty tired. It is what it is.”
Tom Dumoulin coy on continued Vuelta involvement - 'We'll see how useful it is for me to stay'
Roglic was already ahead of his teammate by almost a minute after just one stage, and after stage three Dumoulin was almost three-quarters of an hour back.
“My busy program and coming back from injury all cost a lot of energy and backfired before this Vuelta,” Dumoulin continued. “That’s the conclusion we have to make. I would have liked to have been better here.”
Dumoulin is still searching for his best form after a knee injury prevented him from completing the Giro d'Italia in 2019 and assisted Roglic in this year's Tour de France.
Before the race, Dumoulin had said that the lack of preparation for all riders left the event wide open with no indication of who had an advantage.
“There was no time to do a real grand tour preparation. There were no altitude camps, no warm-up races,” Dumoulin said before the Vuelta kicked off. “We went to straight to the worlds and then the classics. It’s not ideal, but it’s the same for everyone. We have to make the most out of it.”