Mark Cavendish has abandoned the Tour de France after crashing during stage eight. The Astana-Qazaqstan rider was shown leaving the race in an ambulance, wearing a sling, after hitting the ground on the road to Limoges on Saturday.
The Manx sprinter was close to beating the record for Tour stage wins on Friday evening, narrowly missing out in the bunch finish on stage seven. He suffered a mechanical in that sprint, later describing himself as "devastated" at the result.
It means - unless plans change - that Cavendish will remain on 34 Tour stage wins, holding the record joint with Eddy Merckx, as this is set to be his last season as a professional cyclist.
A touch of wheels with about 61km to go of stage eight saw Cavendish hit the deck, and appear to break his collarbone. He was unable to remount his bike, and was later taken to an ambulance, with his abandonment confirmed by the race's organisers.
Astana tweeted: "Mark Cavendish crashed 60 km from finish with Pello Bilbao and was forced to abandon. He left the race in the ambulance. Updates will follow as soon as there is more news."
This Tour de France, Cavendish's 14th, was supposed to be his swan song, a chance for him to deliver one more win, a result fans, the race's organisers, and other riders wanted.
On Friday, after he missed out to Jasper Philipsen [Alpecin-Deceuninck], he said: "I'm pretty devastated actually. The boys did good, I got a good jump, but in those situations it's just not meant to be. By 30, 40m to go, I already had to sit down and stand up again, and my gears were jumping. It's not belief then, it's hope. It is what it is, we try again.”
"We don’t give any presents,” Philipsen said, post-win. “It’s insane that he was up there, and really hats off to him. It’s a pleasure to fight against him for victory.”
Ahead of his final Tour, Cavendish insisted there was no room for sentimentality, although throughout this race he has been seemingly enjoying himself, spending time with fans for selfies and autographs.
“The whole experience of the Tour, you can’t describe it,” he said in a press conference ahead of the race. “This race gives me the most incredible emotions. But unfortunately you can’t really analyse it and appreciate it until afterwards.
“It’s the same every year, and I know it’s my last one, but it’s still the same, I have a job to do.”
At his final Tour he was also being stalked by a camera crew from Netflix, who will now have some interesting but heartbreaking footage.
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