TOUR DE FRANCE hero Mark Cavendish’s hopes of winning a first road race World Championship next month suffered a blow last night after he withdrew from the Vuelta a Espana.
The Briton, who had yet to score any points, got off his bike 40km from the mountain-top finish to the fourth stage in Sierra Nevada, near Granada in southern Spain.
Cavendish, 26, riding for the HTC-Highroad team, had been planning to use the Vuelta as preparation for the World Championship in Copenhagen.
The Manxman is one of the favourites, having won the green jersey in the Tour de France last month and the London 2012 Olympic test event which started and finished in London earlier this month.
But he now faces an uncertain build-up to the Worlds, which begin on 25 September, as he will need permission from the organisers of the Vuelta and world governing body the UCI to ride in other events that overlap the Spanish race.
Cavendish struggled from the start of the Vuelta, becoming detached in the opening team time trial on Saturday and suffering a puncture on Monday. By the start of yesterday’s stage he was 16 minutes and 48 seconds behind the leaders.
His retirement is HTC-Highroad’s second of the race, following Australian Matt Goss who quit on the first day.