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Mark Cavendish leaves Tour de France to prepare for Olympics

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Mark Cavendish says he's withdrawn from the Tour de France to increase his chances of winning Olympic gold in Rio

Mark Cavendish has left the Tour de France in order to begin his preparations for the Olympic Games.

The 31-year-old Manxman announced the news on Tuesday evening after deciding his current level of fatigue could hamper his chances of winning a medal on the track in Rio.

He now has just under four weeks to recuperate before taking part in the two-day omnium on August 14-15.

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In a statement released by his Dimension Data team, Cavendish said: "After an extremely enjoyable and successful couple of weeks at the Tour de France with Team Dimension Data, it is with great sadness that I took the decision today to leave the race.

"After the heat and intensity of the previous stages, we analysed my fatigue levels and decided I'm at a point that would have a detrimental effect on my other big goal for the year, the Olympic Games."

Mark Cavendish, Tour de France, stage six
Image: Cavendish won four stages of the Tour de France

Cavendish had been enjoying his most successful Tour since 2011, having won stages one, three, six and 14, and worn both the race leader's yellow jersey and points classification leader's green jersey. 

However, he struggled badly on the three mountain stages in the Pyrenees - briefly flirting with the time limit on stage eight - and also complained of suffering in the stifling heat that much of the race has taken place in.

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Stages 17-20 from Wednesday to Saturday are all high-mountain days in the Alps and with more hot weather predicted, Cavendish has opted against putting his body through the exertion.

It means he will not be present to contest cycling's most prestigious sprint, on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on stage 21, on Sunday.

Mark Cavendish, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, takes the start of the 183 km second stage of the 103rd edition of the Tour de France
Image: Cavendish wore the yellow jersey for the first time in his career

Cavendish added: "To leave a race and organisation that I hold so much respect for and a team that I have such a special bond with, has not been an easy decision at all.

"I want to say thank you to them, along with all the fans for their support and encouragement, today and over the past 16 stages.

"I wish Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and all the other competitors luck in the final few days into Paris, a special place that I will definitely miss the emotions of this year."

The Tour resumes on Wednesday with a 184.5km 17th stage ending with a summit finish at Finhaut-Emosson. Find out more about the route in our race guide and follow the stage with our live blog from 12pm BST.

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