Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) tried to fight on in the 2019 Giro d'Italia two years after winning the overall, but found the pain in his knee too much after crashing on stage four.
Dumoulin began stage five in the wet and cold conditions south of Rome in Frascati, but quit before kilometre zero.
"I came here for a three-week adventure and I wanted to finish it," Dumoulin said after arriving by car at the stage finish.
"I was and I am not ready to go home yet.
"I didn't want to be at home in two days' time with my knee less swollen and find I would be able to ride. Then I would be feeling sad that I didn't try. Maybe if I pushed through and with some painkillers today it would have been possible. I would always have asked myself that question and now I asked myself and I know the answer."
Dumoulin spoke from the Sunweb bus in Terracina where Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) later won the sprint finish. The temperature hovered around 10°C and just like the start, rain kept falling hard.
Journalists surrounded him wanting to know what happened to the rider who in 2018, finished second in the Giro behind Chris Froome (Team Ineos) and in the Tour de France, second again behind Geraint Thomas.
"I was well positioned in the front and [Salvatore] Puccio made a mistake. That can happen, I don't blame him, it just happens," Dumoulin said.
"I've made a few mistakes and made a few crashes myself in the past so it's just very unfortunate that it's cost me my Giro but I guess that's part of racing."
Dumoulin closed yesterday 4-02 minutes behind race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
The race this morning began where stage four ended, on the Alban Hills in Frascati. Dumoulin rolled out with his Sunweb team-mates in red while pink jersey Roglič guided the bunch.
"I tried this morning on the trainer in my room. I was actually kind of OK until I stood up on the pedals and then I had a huge feeling of pain in my knee. Then I tried to do seated some higher power but that also was not possible so I can turn the leg and I can spin the legs. I could do a recovery ride today no problem but not a race."
Attention now turns to Dumoulin's recovery and the Tour de France, beginning on July 6 in Brussels.
"For me it's terrible. Months and weeks of preparation and dedication went into this Giro and then in one stupid crash, it's over," Dumoulin added.
"It'll be the same as after every Grand Tour, so pizza and beer first. Then I will see.
"I don't know how bad the injury is in my knee. Yesterday we took X-rays and it's not broken. It's probably just a big hit and a big blow and it's very swollen now. That's why I can't push any power.
"I hope it will be gone in a few days' time and then I can think about the coming weeks again but I don't know, I will see."
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