A brutal opening fortnight of the Tour de France continued to take its toll on the peloton with six riders abandoning the race with the final rest day ahead.
Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEdge), Giovanni Bernaudeau and Vincent Gerome (Europcar), Kenny Van Hummel (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ-BigMat) all succumbed to injury or illness.
While teammate Dries Devenyns fought his way into the Stage 15 breakaway, Chavanel gave in to the chest infection that had been causing him to struggle over the past week. He had lost his voice and was finding it hard to breathe.
"Today I'm really sad," Chavanel said. "For a French rider it is really hard to leave the Tour. It's the first time in 12 participations, and now I'm really disappointed. Today I tried again to take the start. I had a fever, but I was waiting for the rest day, to recover a bit.
"The rhythm of the race was immediately too high to me. I couldn't follow and I had to abandon. I'm taking antibiotics since last Thursday. There's no way to continue.
"Now I will try to recover as fast as I can, and I will focus on the Olympics. I wish the guys here a good final week of the Tour. They deserve it. "
Lancaster became the first Orica-GreenEdge rider to abandon the Tour after three crashes blighted the in-form Australian's race. The 32-year-old was struggling on the way to Pau and aware that he was outside the time cut, decided enough was enough.
"I'm pretty gutted to be going home," Lancaster said on the team's Backstage Pass. "My legs were still pretty good apart from the left leg with the injury, but I can't do anything about it. It's just one of those things.
"I've got a lot of races left until the end of the season and I'll just go back, recover and get things right and train up for the rest of the year."
Meantime, Vacansoleil-DCM is now down to four men following the abandon of Kenny Van Hummel. The Dutchman had been struggling with both a back injury and a stomach ailment.
"I had my mind set on the nice rest day on Tuesday," he told ANP. "But it's not to be. I've had many problems with my back and it's constantly needed treatment."
FDJ-BigMat's success in this Tour with Pierrick Fédrigo claiming the team's second victory - matching Baden Cooke and Brad McGee's efforts in 2003 - was soured with Belarusian rider Yauheni Hutarovich forced to pull out of Stage 15, just 20 minutes into the day's racing. He had been struggling with fatigue over the past few days.