Michal Kwiatkowski admits it was a hard decision to abandon the Tour de France on stage 17 while wearing the world champion's rainbow stripes.
The Pole climbed off his bike and sat by the side of the road before the Col d'Allos climb having tried and failed to get into the day's winning breakaway.
Teammate Rigoberto Uran did manage to get away and finished third on the stage, but Kwiatkowski insists he had nothing left to give on the challenging stage.
"It's sad for me to leave a special race like Le Tour de France," Michal Kwiatkowski said. "Everyone knows how much I like this grand tour. Today I wanted to enter in a breakaway. I jumped a few times at the beginning together with Rigoberto Uran, but then suddenly I felt empty.
"I lost contact from the group on the first climb. I fought, hoping to recover, and maybe I could feel better along the parcours, but the situation didn't change. I hung on until the intermediate sprint, but then I decided to stop.
"There wasn't anything left in the tank. It's a difficult moment for me. You never want to stop in a race like this, especially when you have this rainbow jersey on your shoulders.
On Tuesday's rest day, Kwiatkowski's team manager Patrick Lefevere confirmed that the Polish rider will be leaving Etixx-Quick-Step at the end of the season.
Having finished 11th in his debut Tour in 2013, Kwiatkowski was reportedly keen to ride for the classification once more, but Lefevere told him not to, which led to his decision to quit.
"My teammates were great these last couple of weeks in how they supported me," he continued. "I want to thank them. We had great time together and we achieved great results together. Now I have to recover, and then start thinking about the next race on my calendar.
"I want to thank all the people on the roads that cheered for me. I wish all the best to my teammates, hoping they can get another victory before the end of Le Tour."
Watch highlights from stage 17 of the Tour de France
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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.
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