CUNEO, Italy (AP) — Romain Bardet pulled out of the Giro d’Italia due to a stomach bug on Friday before French cyclist Arnaud Démare claimed his third victory in this year’s race.
Bardet, who was among the overall title favorites and lying fourth overall, climbed off his bike about a third of the way into the 13th stage and got into a Team DSM car. Shortly afterward, the team confirmed his abandonment.
Bardet suffered from a stomach bug the previous day and was seen holding his stomach in pain at the beginning of Friday’s stage in San Remo.
He was only 14 seconds behind leader Juan Pedro López overall, and was expected to be the main challenger to favorite Richard Carapaz. Bardet had been in great form, finishing first in the Tour of the Alps last month and almost winning atop the Blockhaus on the Giro ninth stage on Sunday.
“He slept the whole way back in the bus after the race. He didn’t eat last night, he couldn’t eat anything. He was awake all night being sick,” Team DSM coach Matt Winston said.
“This morning there was a small chance he could finish today but Romain’s a fighter. He wanted to start the stage, he wanted to go for it. But he was already being sick in the neutral and it just wasn’t possible to continue.”
The 150-kilometer (93-mile) stage to Cuneo was expected to be a final one for the sprinters but for a long time it appeared as if it was going to be won from a breakaway. However, the sprinters’ teams worked hard to drive the peloton and the four escapees were swallowed up with just 700 meters to go.
That set up the final sprint, and Démare managed to head off Phil Bauhaus and Mark Cavendish.
“When I got here I was saying it would be nice to win one … I’m really happy,” said Démare, who rides for Groupama–FDJ. “It was an incredible day. They really resisted at the front.
“We were really riding hard and with 10 kilometers to go I started to think about the sprint because we knew we’d get them by then and the guys did a great job. It was monstrous actually the leadout … and I did a big strong sprint.”
The breakaway got away early in the stage and the four escapees built a lead of more than six minutes at the summit of the Colle di Nava, the only classified climb of the day — a steep, third-category ascent in the first half of the route.
It appeared as if the peloton let the breakaway gain too much time on the climb as the quartet worked well together to keep the pack distanced, but it was to end in heartbreak for the four riders, each of whom was looking for a first grand tour stage win.López maintained his 12-second lead over Carapaz and João Almeida, and will wear the pink jersey for a 10th day on Saturday’s 14th stage. It is the shortest one of the race at just 147 kilometers (91 miles) but includes two ascents of the Maddalena and the Superga hill in a challenging two-lap circuit in the second half of the undulating route from Santena to Torino.
“I need to enjoy, like, every day,” López said. “For sure, some guys will try to make a difference but I will try to do my 100%.”
The Giro finishes in nine days in Verona.