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De Gendt leaves Giro d'Italia with knee pain

VERONA ITALY MAY 21 Thomas De Gendt of Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 13 a 198km stage from Ravenna to Verona girodiitalia Giro UCIworldtour on May 21 2021 in Verona Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) in the break on stage 13 of the Giro d'Italia (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Thomas De Gendt has left the Giro d'Italia on the morning of the shortened stage 16 to Cortina d'Ampezzo due to knee pain, leaving his Lotto Soudal team with just two men left in the race.

The Belgian was one of just three Lotto riders left in the race after Roger Kluge abandoned on stage 14 up the Monte Zoncolan but announced on Monday morning that he too would not be continuing on to Milan.

"With tears in my eyes and pain in the knee, I have to say goodbye to the Giro," De Gendt wrote on Twitter before stage 16 kicked off in Sacile.

"I could not perform on my normal level in the last two weeks and there was no improvement. The only right decision that could be made at this moment. I'm sorry to leave my two teammates behind."

Climber Harm Vanhoucke and Italian Stefano Oldani remain in the race for the team, though the squad have had a successful Giro after sprinter Caleb Ewan took two stage wins before withdrawing on stage 8 with knee pain.

"Unfortunately, Thomas De Gendt did not take the start ini Sacile today," the team announced on Twitter. "Thomas' pain in the knee of the last weeks got worse in bad weather at the Giro."

Lotto Soudal's plight at the Giro evokes memories of their 2003 Giro campaign. At that race, Koos Moerenhout rode the final three stages as the sole representative from Lotto-Domo after his last two teammates Nick Gates and Geert Steegmans missed the time limit on the Alpine stage 18 to Chianale.

De Gendt, meanwhile, is expected to return for the Tour de France, while he is also set to compete at the Vuelta a España later in the year to complete a Grand Tour triple.

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