British sprinter Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) has quit the Tour of Missouri with a respiratory infection. Cavendish won the first two stages of the American race and held the overall lead for two days.

“Mark withdraws with deep regret from the Tour of Missouri,” Columbia boss Bob Stapleton said in a statement. “As he has stated it’s one of his favorite events and also for team Columbia HTC.”

“Mark has been fighting an infection since travelling to the USA, which has spread to his lungs. He has had a long and successful season and it is a team priority that his general health be protected. He is on antibiotics and will rest here in Missouri for a few days prior to returning to Europe.”

On Wednesday’s third stage, Cavendish came in fifth behind sprint rival Thor Hushovd, who subsequently took over lead of the race.

Cavendish decided to exit the race before Thursday’s stage four start after consulting with the Columbia team doctor.

The 24 year old from the Isle of Man has had a lengthy 2009 season, having won 23 races including a victory in every stage race he has contested.

Related links

Stage three: Hushovd wins stage and takes lead

Stage two: Cavendish takes his second stage

Stage one: Cavendish wins opening stage

Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile

Cavendish to miss Tour of Britain

Leipheimer to ride Missouri