Tejay van Garderen's Tour de France run has come to a premature end as the American pulled out the race because of illness during Stage 17 Wednesday.
Van Garderen's withdrawal was stunning. Teammate Peter Stetina, who is nursing a patella injury back home in California, said during an interview with NBC that, "as I turned on the TV, he was getting in the car." He went on to say that he was "shocked" and his wife was "dumbfounded."
Obviously, nobody expected to see the best American rider in the Tour drop out so close to the finish. Reuters reported that the Tour medical services diagnosed van Garderen as suffering from headaches.
German Simon Geschke won Stage 17 while another American, Andrew Talansky, finished second. Columbian rider Rigoberto Uran rounded out the top three.
Stage 17 itself was a 100-mile race from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup and was the first of the four French Alps stages, which are traditionally regarded as the hardest of the Tour.
In addition to van Garderen pulling out of the Tour, there were a few minor crashes during the stage, including Frenchman Thibaut Pinot slamming hard into the road after slipping on a curve. Also, Spain's Alberto Contador fell but Tinkoff-Saxo teammate Peter Sagan was there to help him get right back.
Great Britain's Chris Froome maintains the yellow jersey, holding a 3 minute, 10-second lead over second-place Nairo Quintana.
Thursday's Stage 18 will be a 116-mile race between Gap and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.