South African team Dimension Data have received a massive blow, with British sprinter Mark Cavendish pulling out of the Tour de France following a high-speed crash.
The World Tour outfit confirmed ahead of Wednesday’s fifth stage that the former world champion had broken his shoulder blade.
“Mark suffered a fracture to the right scapula,” said team doctor Adrian Rotunno.
“Fortunately no surgery is required at this stage, and most importantly there is no nerve damage.
“He’s been withdrawn from the race for obvious medical reasons, and we’ll continue monitoring him over the coming days.”
Cavendish admitted he was gutted to bring his campaign to an early end.
“I’m obviously massively disappointed to get this new about the fracture,” Cavendish said.
The 32-year-old rider had been sent to hospital after being involved in a collision with Slovakian Peter Sagan in a late sprint for the line on Tuesday’s fourth stage.
Sagan was later disqualified from the race.
“I feel I was in a good position to win (the stage) and to lose that and even having to leave the Tour, a race I’ve built my whole career around, is really sad,” Cavendish said.
“I wish the best of luck to my teammates for the rest of the race.”
A 30-time individual stage winner at the annual three-week race, Cavendish was aiming to break the record of 34 stage victories.
He had taken fourth place on stage two at the weekend, bouncing back from a lengthy injury layoff, as the experienced speedster again promised to spearhead the SA-registered outfit at the Grand Tour race.
While Cavendish was sidelined from the rest of the contest, however, Norwegian rider Edvald Boasson Hagen was lying fourth overall, leading the Dimension Data charge in the early stages of the gruelling battle.
Daryl Impey, riding for Orica-Scott, was the top SA rider, settling in 18th position in the general classification with 17 stages remaining.