Alberto Contador made it safely to the finish of the third stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné despite the loss of one his mountain-men Chris Anker Sørensen. The Dane failed to start the 167km stage after a bout of stomach flu turned into a fever through the night.
The Dauphiné is a critical marker ahead of the Tour de France and Saxo-Tinkoff team management will now be forced to put a question mark over Sørensen's name in selecting the nine-man squad. Sørensen admitted that his Tour status was more important that completing the Dauphiné and along with advice from team staff, decided not to start Stage 3.
"Of course I am disappointed about having to leave the race, but if I put the limit too far now, it goes definitely beyond my chances of being ready for the tour. If I had struggled with stomach flu alone, I could probably have continued but I have a fever and it is too risky to continue," said Sørensen on his team site.
The 28-year-old had attended an important reconnaissance trip in the French Alps along with Contador, Roman Kreuziger and Nicholas Roche prior to the start of the Dauphiné and was eager to prove his worth to the team and his leader Contador during the eight-stage race.
A final Dolomites training camp had been arranged on completion of the Dauphiné but that schedule may have to be reshuffled considering he would enter the three-week race without the important pre-Tour race in his legs.
"Now I must go home and rest. Only time will tell which races I can ride [before the Tour]," he added.
The Dane was given the opportunity to ride for the general classification at the French grand tour in 2012 - given the absence of Contador - and he stepped up to the task finishing 14th-overall. For 2013 however, Saxo-Tinkoff will have a sole leader with Contador while the likes of Australian Michael Rogers, Roche, Kreuziger, Sergio Paulinho and his trusty Spanish domestiques Benjamin Noval and Jesus Hernandez are expected to line-up in support of the team's GC ambitions.
Contador currently lies in 10th-overall at the Dauphiné ahead of today's 32.5km individual time trial.