World and Olympic road-race champion Nicole Cooke abandoned the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche yesterday.
Before the fourth stage to Cruas, she had previously been positioned thirteenth overall. Cooke won the opening stage of last year’s race.
The 26-year-old confirmed that poor condition was behind her unplanned withdrawal. “Bad form, pulled out,” she told Cycling Weekly.
It remains to be seen whether the Welsh star can turn things around for the defence of her rainbow jersey in a fortnight’s time.
Cooke is currently considering whether to race again before the world championships in Mendrisio (September 23-27), one of her main goals for the season.
Since her Vision 1 team folded after financial problems in early August, Cooke has been racing in the colours of the Great Britain national team.
The other squad members racing in the Ardèche are Anna Blyth, Katie Colclough, Nikki Harris, Sharon Laws and Lucy Martin. Laws is the best-placed team member, lying in ninth place overall.
Lizzie Armitstead, riding for trade team Lotto Belisol, is in third place, after back-to-back second place stage finishes.