By Jonny Long
Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) has abandoned the Tour de France 2019 during stage 12 from Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
The world time trial champion climbed off with 80km left to race, before the two category one climbs of the day, the Peyresourde and Horquette d'Ancizan, and before tomorrow's sole individual time trial of this year's race, where the Australian was one of the favourites to take the stage victory.
Dennis stopped during the feed zone and made his way to the finish line in a team car.
Bahrain-Merida sports director Gorazd Štangelj explained that there were no health reasons to explain Dennis' abandonment, saying after the stage: "We saw Dennis at the side of the road. He did not want to talk. We thought he'd continue anyway, to hear he stopped was a shock to us as well. It certainly has nothing to do with his physical condition."
"We are also confused. Let’s say I am disappointed with what happened with Rohan today because we expected a big effort from him tomorrow,” Štangelj continued. “It was his decision to stop at the feed zone. We try to speak with him. We stop with the car and try to find a solution, ask what is going on, and he said I don’t want to talk right and he later abandoned the race."
Earlier in the day there had been rumours that an illness has been affecting a number of the Bahrain-Merida squad, including Vincenzo Nibali, but the reason for Dennis' withdrawal has not yet been confirmed by his team.
In fact, when the two Bahrain-Merida sports directors were asked why Dennis had abandoned, neither of them had an explanation, with French television reporting that before climbing off the Australian had been arguing with his team car.
Bahrain-Merida released a statement with 60km left to race, saying they will not be commenting until they have established what happened to their rider.
Bahrain-Merida have already had a relatively successful 2019 Tour campaign, with Dylan Teuns taking the stage six victory on La Planche des Belles Filles.
The team do not have a GC contender, with Nibali saying he will target stages, and Dennis' abandonment will dent the Bahraini team's chances of doubling their stage victory haul.
With 40km remaining of the stage, a picture of Dennis' bike parked up against the side of the team bus emerged, with a team member apparently saying "he seems ok".
Our reporter at the team bus spotted Dennis getting off the team bus and walking towards the finish line.
We will bring you developments on this story when we get them...
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.