19 Jul 2017

Bennett devastated Tour is over

9:23 am on 19 July 2017

New Zealand cyclist George Bennett says he is devastated that illness has forced him out of the Tour de France.

New Zealand cyclist George Bennett

New Zealand cyclist George Bennett (left) Photo: Photosport

Bennett pulled out of the Tour after getting into difficulty early during the 16th stage.

He was quickly distanced by the peloton during a third category climb at the beginning of the 165km stage and his deficit grew to more than six minutes before he abandonded the race.

Bennett was 12th overall when he pulled out but had been as high as ninth and was hoping to become the first New Zealander to finish in the top 10 of the general classification.

His Lotto team confirmed the 27-year-old had been suffering from a virus in recent days and Bennett said he is devastated his race has been cut short.

"It is not how I imagined this tour would end.

"You put everything into this, you devote your whole life to this for months on end - for years really.

You get into a pretty good position and it all goes over something that is essentially out of your control."

Nelson cyclist George Bennett.

George Bennett Photo: PHOTOSPORT

He said he thought he'd fought off the virus but it ultimately got the better of him.

"I woke up yesterday in the rest day and it wasn't too bad and I thought I'd dodged it.

"But it came back really really quickly and just paralysed me with this fever. I couldn't get out of bed and slept for 14 hours."

"If you are off a little bit in this race you are in trouble and if you are off that much,then no chance."

Bennett said he will now spend a week in bed getting healthy and trying to avoid watching the tour.

Chris Froome (middle) Tour de France winner 2015.

Chris Froome (middle) Tour de France winner 2015. Photo: Photosport

The stage was won by Australian Michael Matthews as Britain's Chris Froome retained the overall leader's yellow jersey.

As the tour heads into couple of brutal stages in the Alps, Froome leads Italian Fabio Aru by 18 seconds with Frenchman Romain Bardet, third - 23 seconds off the pace.

Michael Matthews improved his chances of winning the points classification after his Sunweb team worked hard to keep green jersey holder Marcel Kittel out of contention.

Sunweb rode hard in the first climb of the day as Kittel was dropped, making sure he would not come back, and they collected their third win in four stages after Matthews won stage 14 and Frenchman Warren Barguil prevailed on stage 13.

Matthews collected points in the intermediate sprint and at the finish to narrow the gap with Kittel to 29, setting up a duel with the Quick-Step Floors rider in the final days of the race.