Mark Cavendish's key lead-out man Mark Renshaw abandons Tour de France

Australian Mark Renshaw withdraws from Tour de France stage nine with illness

Mark Renshaw at the 2016 Tour de France

(Image credit: Watson)

Mark Renshaw was forced to withdraw from the 2016 Tour de France on Sunday after suffering from illness, leaving Dimension Data team-mate Mark Cavendish without one of his key lead-out men.

The 33-year-old Australian reportedly suffered from an illness overnight and could not continue in the race. Sunday's stage is the toughest yet, featuring five significant climbs in the Pyrenees. Despite feeling unwell, Renshaw started but soon called it a day.

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On Saturday, Renshaw finished in the gruppetto alongside Cavendish, 39 minutes and 24 seconds behind stage winner Chris Froome (Sky).

Renshaw played a key part in Cavendish's three stage victories so far in the 2016 race, and will leave a gap in the Manxman's lead-out train in the remaining two weeks in the race.

Cavendish currently leads the points classification standings after winning stages one, three and six.

>>> Band of brothers: How the sprinters survive in the Tour de France mountains

Renshaw becomes only the second rider to abandon the 2016 Tour de France after Dane Michael Morkov (Katusha) withdrew during stage eight after struggling through the opening week with crash injuries.

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and Cedric Pineau (FDJ) also later withdrew during stage nine.

Before Morkov withdrew, all 198 starters in the 2016 Tour were still present at the start of stage eight for the first time in the race's 103 editions.

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