Mark Cavendish’s World Championships preparations have taken a hit after the sprinter abandoned the Vuelta a Espana on stage four.
Cavendish, who has suffered in the heat of southern Spain in the opening days of the race and saw team-mate Matt Goss retire through illness on stage two, climbed off with 40km remaining of the first mountain stage.
The Manx Missile was using the Vuelta to prepare for the worlds road race in Copenhagen on Sunday September 25, with the Briton calling the flat course his “best ever” chance of winning the rainbow jersey.
Temperatures hit 43c on the third category climb where Cavendish was dropped and the sprinter must now anxiously wait to find out whether he was simply suffering from heat exhaustion or if an underlying virus is to derail his season.
HTC-Highroad directeur sportif Jens Zemke said: “He was so tired that he could sleep in the team car if we stopped. Something is not OK, we have to see what it is, and see what is possible for him to do for the rest of the season.”
UCI rules dictate that the HTC-Highroad rider cannot race again until the Vuelta has finished on September 11, ruling him out of the Tour of Britain which starts in Scotland on the same day, unless Vuelta organisers and the UCI give the rider permission.
“A rider dropping out of the race may not compete in any other cycling events for the duration of the stage race that he abandoned, on pain of a 15 day suspension and a fine of CHF 200 to 1,000,” reads the UCI rulebook.
“For major tours, the event directors and the commissaires panel jointly may, however, grant exceptions at the request of a rider and with the agreement of his team manager.”
Cavendish was riding his third Grand Tour of the year, having quit the Giro d’Italia after his second victory on stage 12 to concentrate on the Tour de France, where the 26-year-old won five stages and the green jersey.