John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) has been forced to abandon the Vuelta a España after falling sick in the opening days. A multiple stage winner at the Spanish Grand Tour, Degenkolb had ambitions of adding to his palmarès, but bronchitis has cut his race short.
Degenkolb has only once before abandoned a Grand Tour, back in 2013 when he departed the Giro d'Italia on the first rest day. He expressed his frustration at leaving the Vuelta having arrived at the race in a good condition.
"I came here in good shape and with two goals: win a stage and help Alberto (Contador) to get a really great result in his last race as a professional rider," said Degenkolb.
"Unfortunately I got sick two days ago, and that was that. I tried to fight myself a way through the stages, hoping that my body would recover, because I had the legs, but when you cannot breathe properly, it's just impossible to keep going."
It has been a generally disappointing season for Degenkolb, who has failed to take a win since stage 3 of the Dubai Tour in February.
"To be honest I am really frustrated," he said. "I started the season well with a victory in Dubai and a lot of top 10 places at the spring classics, but after that, it just never went like I hoped and expected. Anyway, health comes first now and the season is not over yet, so I don't want to take risks now. So, I will go home, recover and focus on the rest of the season."
Trek-Segafredo team leader Alberto Contador is also suffering with illness, but will continue racing for the time being. Contador struggled on the opening mountain stage on Monday and told reporters the following day that he had been dealing with stomach problems. The team remain hopeful that he will recover ahead of the coming mountain tests.
Degenkolb, however, is on his way home. Team doctor Piet De Moor says that the team tried to help him recover while keeping him in the race, but it proved too hard. It's not yet clear when Degenkolb will be back in action, but he is currently set to lead the German team at the World Championships in Bergen next month.
"When John fell sick, two days ago, we started the treatment right away, and we hoped that his condition would improve quickly," explained Dr De Moor. "Sadly enough, that was not the case. He needs to rest as much as he can to give his body the opportunity to recover as quickly as possible. For now, it's difficult to say when John will return to racing. All depends on how quickly he recovers."