BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen, who was sitting in third place overnight at the Tour de France, withdrew from the race Wednesday due to illness.
Van Garderen lost contact with the peloton on the ascent of the Col de Toutes Aures, about 50 kilometers into the 161-km race. With the help of several teammates, he caught up with the peloton on the descent. But not long after, the lead group split and van Garderen was once again alone. He stopped with 70 km to go.
"To be fighting for a podium in the Tour de France, and then the next minute you are sitting in the car, was really hard," van Garderen said. "It was hard to look my teammates in the eyes. It was hard to call my wife and explain to her what was going on. It was a lot of emotions."
Van Garderen said he had been fighting a bit of a cold he picked up after Stage 13.
"For awhile I was dealing with it just fine," he said. "It was just a little bit of the sniffles and not a big deal. But it kept getting a little bit worse. Then, on the rest day (Tuesday), I was having some feverish symptoms and chills. This morning, I woke up and thought the worst of it had passed. I felt ready to race and was back, closer to normal. But then once I got out there, the muscles just had no energy. Straight away from the start, I kind of knew this wasn't good and hopefully I could just hide and maybe ride into it for a few kilometers and start to feel better. But the sensations never came. It is hugely disappointing."
After helping the BMC Racing Team win the Stage 9 team time trial, van Garderen had been sitting second or third overall. He was 3:32 behind race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) when the stage began. Samuel Sánchez, at 17:52 off the lead and in 13th, is now the BMC Racing Team's best-placed rider.
"We lost our GC (general classification) contender for the podium and that means we have to re-focus tonight and set some new goals for tomorrow and the rest of the tour," BMC Racing Team President/General Manager Jim Ochowicz said. "There are still four big days in the Tour de France ahead of us. We are not going away. We are going to be fighting tomorrow for something new. So we will carry on until Paris."
BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said there was no indication the respiratory situation van Garderen was suffering from would sap his power so significantly on the first race's day in the Alps.
"We were hoping by the rest day, he would have gotten over it," Dr. Testa said. "Today was very hard at the start. So the combination and the fatigue that he built up in the previous days cost him the race."
Van Garderen was one of six riders to withdraw from the Tour de France Wednesday. It was his first abandonment in five participations after twice finishing fifth (2012 and 2014), 45th in 2013 and 81st in 2011. He won the race's "best young rider" honors in 2012.
Simon Geschke (Team Giant-Alpecin) soloed to win Wednesday's stage while Froome kept the overall lead, 3:10 ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team).