Belgian Stijn Devolder went into the Tour de France as his Quick Step team's hope for a high finish in the overall classification. But just 52 kilometres into stage 15, he was dropped and abandoned the race. Devolder explained that an illness in the first week hurt his chances to do well early in the race. "In Brest I got sick and spent three days with a fever. I really wanted to do well in the first week of the race."
Once the Tour hit the mountains, he said, "things didn't go as well as I had hoped, and I lost a lot of time." Devolder lost 14'38" on the stage to Hautacam. "From that day forward I lost the feeling. I tried setting goals for myself, I tried to motivate and get back in the race mentally, but to no avail. "
Despite being admittedly unmotivated, Devolder entered the breakaway on stage 14 and took one of the intermediate sprints, but when the race headed back into the mountains the following day, the effort had worn him down.
"Yesterday on the Col De l'Agnel I was completely empty and I chose to stop," he said on Monday. "I'm really sorry, especially for the other guys on the team who created a great first week for me. I thank them all, as well as all the team staff and the people who supported me during the stage in the Pyrenees and the Alps. To all of them and to my fans I say I will return to the Tour again. Negative experiences are good opportunities to grow; they help you improve and come back stronger".
The Belgian reflected on his preparations for the Tour, and said that he had raced too hard leading up to July. "Before the Tour maybe I gave it too much, that is to say, I competed in a lot of races with the objective of winning, but to my way of thinking regarding cycling, it's difficult to think of racing without riding to try to win.
"When I feel well I love racing to win. In the future I will probably have to change my mind set and concentrate more on specific goals. We'll see. In the next few weeks I'll have time to talk things over with the team's technical staff and make a well considered decision."