Jumbo-Visma say they will fight on in the Vuelta a España with Primoz Roglic despite suffering what they recognised was a "big loss" for the team when Tour podium finisher Steven Kruijswijk called a halt to his race because of the pain in his left knee.
Last year Kruijswijk placed fourth in the Vuelta a España after being ousted from the provisional podium late on in the Pyrenees by Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana ProTeam).
But this time around, the Dutchman had a bad crash on stage one, falling heavily in the TTT because of a pool of water in the road.
"The decision to abandon is the only right one. There was no improvement," Kruijswijk said according to his team's press release. "Because of the pain I am not comfortable on my bike and you have to be realistic. If the pain persists, I am of no value to the team. Hopefully they can live up to what we came for."
Kruijswijk was among the GC men to shed time on the road to Calpe on stage 2. He finished 1:43 down on stage winner Nairo Quintana, and lay 51st overall, 2:19 down on race leader Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb) at the time of his abandon.
"The pain was too bad, it was already yesterday [stage 3]," Jumbo-Visma sports director Addy Engels told Cyclingnews after stage 4.
This is the first abandon in a Grand Tour for Kruijswijk since the Giro d'Italia in 2017, when he quit on stage 20 with stomach problems. Since then he's taken a string of top ten places in Grand Tours, including third in this year's Tour de France. His previous abandon in the Vuelta was in the first week of 2016 when he smashed into a metal bollard that race organisers had failed to remove and fractured a collarbone.
"We decided to start, but it was again the same, really painful. And if it's like that a couple of days, no improvement, so he stops."
"It's a big loss, but it's like that. If he cannot continue, he cannot continue."
Engels confirmed that Kruijswijk would not be having a check-up in Spain, but would instead head for home in Holland and rest there.
"If he had finished the stage, we would have gone to hospital here, but now he's out of the race and he'll be in the Netherlands tomorrow, it's best to do it there."
Engels says it is impossible to detect exactly what the injury is, but the knee is badly swollen. "We need a good check to find out what the problem is. There wasn't a specific diagnosis, it was simply the pain was too great."
The Dutchman's enforced absence adds to the already considerable dearth of top names in the Vuelta a España, following Giro d'Italia winner Richard Carapaz (Movistar) last-minute exit from the start list. But Jumbo-Visma insist that whilst his abandon less than a week into the race is a major setback, they are still going all out in Spain with Roglic.
"Of course, we fight on," Engels said. "Primoz is in a good position, George [Bennett] is strong, we still have a very strong team. But it's a big loss."