Giro d'Italia: Belfast and Dublin stage winner Marcel Kittel bows out of race due to fever
German rider Marcel Kittel - who won both the Belfast and Dublin stages of the Giro d'Italia - has pulled out of the race series due to illness.
Kittel said he had bowed out of the Giro - which raced its way across Northern Ireland last week - "because of a fever".
The double Giro stage winner did not start Tuesday's stage as "health of the team’s riders always the first priority", his team, Giant Shimano said.
Team coach Marc Reef said Kittel "did not feel 100%" after the third stage of racing.
Following his win in Dublin on Sunday, the champion collapsed at the finish line.
"We made the decision here before the start of the fourth stage that Marcel would not continue the race," said Marc Reef.
"It is a hard decision and a big loss for the team and a pity for Marcel."
Kittel thanked his fans and team for their support.
"I am very disappointed about leaving the Giro after such a strong start in good condition, but I do not feel healthy and I am not in the position to start the race in this condition," he said.
"I want to thank my team for their support these past few days and wish them the best of luck for the rest of the race."
Speaking earlier on Twitter he said:
"So, the Giro got me earlier then I thought. Absolutely disappointed that I have to leave this beautiful race today because of a fever. :'((("
"Thank you to everyone, incl. my team, the organisers & all the fans next to the road, for your great support! It was short but intensive! <3"
Kittel was in the pink as he celebrated his 26th birthday in style - clinching victory in the stage three Irish leg 24 hours after winning in Belfast.
The German rider collapsed off his bike at the end of a gruelling sprint finish after arriving into a thronged Dublin's Merrion Square where crowds roared on the competitors outside Government Buildings.