Issoire (France): Spanish rider Juan Manuel Garate, one of the key helpers for Tour de France contender Robert Gesink, has withdrawn from the race because of injury, his Rabobank team said Sunday.
Garate left the Tour prior to Sunday`s ninth stage due to injuries picked up in a crash during Wednesday`s fifth stage.
The Spaniard sustained a shoulder injury in that crash but continued, only to suffer inflammation in his groin in compensating for the pain.
Rabobank team manager Erik Breukink told AFP: "Juan has been suffering for the past few days with the pain and his shoulder, and to try and alleviate the pain he has compensated by changing position slightly on the bike.
"Unfortunately this has caused inflammation in his groin. He had a very bad night and this morning we decided it`s no longer reasonable for him to continue."
The loss of Garate is a further blow for Gesink, who came into the race with high hopes of improving on his sixth place finish last year but who has been suffering from a lower back injury sustained in the same crash as Garate.
"It`s a real pity because Juan was in good form coming into the Tour and he was set to help Gesink in the mountains," added Breukink.
Dutch climber Gesink suffered his worst day on the bike Saturday, losing over a minute to his yellow jersey rivals to finish the stage 17th overall at 1min 28sec behind Thor Hushovd of Norway.
Breukink said they were hoping Gesink would get over the problem before key stages in the high mountains, starting Thursday in the Pyrenees.
"Robert`s body is just not 100 percent and he`s not getting full power output," he added.
"The problem can be fixed, but it takes time. The crash has took all his strength, and in the Tour de France that is not something you want to be without."
Sunday`s stage is a 208 km ride between Issoire and Saint-Flour and features eight categorised climbs, four of which are mountain passes.
The race finishes on July 24 in Paris.