The Manxman was forced to stop after a 'challenging two days'

Mark Cavendish abandoned Paris-Nice during Monday’s 163 kilometre stage two, with his Dimension Data team citing a ‘challenging two days’ and a need to ‘work his way back towards full fitness’ as the motivation.

The 33-year-old has been rebuilding his form after an enforced break from training and racing, following diagnosis of the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever.

Cavendish’s team mate Louis Meintjes was also forced to abandon the eight stage race in France, following a crash on a roundabout at the 73 kilometre mark.

In a statement released by Team Dimension Data, directeur sportif Rolf Aldag said: “Mark Cavendish was also forced to stop on the back of a challenging two days.

“The race was just his third back, following already tough outings at the Vuelta a San Juan and the UAE Tour; as he continues to work his way back towards full fitness following a long lay-off from racing due to illness last year.”

The illness forced Cavendish to stop racing and training after the Tour de France in 2018, he was affected by the same virus for two years.

At the UAE Tour, Cavendish was clear that he was there to perform a team role, with no expectations of sprint success – commenting: “Obviously with the sprints, I’ll see what I can do but we are here for the GC and we are here to get our three guys in the top-20, that’s it.”

“I’ll try my best. The efforts here will hopefully help get that top-end back and we’ll see what happens from there.”

Today’s Paris-Nice stage, won by Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), was enlivened by strong winds and “littered with crashes.”

Following his race ending crash, Meintjes said: “The racing was on and I went through a roundabout and I guess I misjudged it a bit. It’s pretty painful and I lost a bit of skin, it doesn’t feel like anything’s broken but we’ll have to go to the hospital for a check-up.”

Aldag added: “He [Meintjes] managed to get back up and riding but lost too much time and was eventually out of the time limit. He was assessed by our team doctor at the finish and will go to hospital for a further check on Monday evening.”