John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) has abandoned the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
The 24-year-old German, winner of stage five, said the opening week had proved too demanding and he was no longer fit enough to continue.
Degenkolb raced for the entirety of last year’s 3,360km Vuelta a Espana, collecting five stage wins, including the race-closing run from Cercedilla to Madrid.
“The first week in this Giro turned out to be very challenging and we also faced difficult weather conditions,” he said. “This has had an impact on my body, and I am simply not fit anymore.
“I have to admit I am still very young, and I know that I will get stronger every year, so I have to swallow my pride and do what’s best for my body. Together with the team we have decided that I will travel home to recover first and then start working toward the next goals.
“I’m proud to leave this beautiful race with a stage win. I will come back here.”
The Dutch squad will enter the mountainous second week of the Giro, which begins today at Cordenons, without a recognised climber. It had already been reduced to seven riders by the departure of Cheng Ji, the Giro’s first Chinese competitor, with illness.
Luka Mezgec, another of the team’s fast men, is likely to lead the team for the remainder of the race.
Directeur sportif, Addy Engels, said the team’s tactical approach would remain unchanged.
“We will keep riding offensively,” he said.
Just four of the remaining 11 stages are flat, including the final stage, a final blast into Brescia.