Cavendish abandons Vuelta; Frenchman leads Spanish bike race

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Two days after teammate Matt Goss abandoned the Vuelta a Espana with stomach flu, HTC-Highroad's sprinter Mark Cavendish retired on the second climb on Tuesday.

Perhaps it was too much climbing early in the 3-week race, or too much heat or the effects of the same bug that bothered Goss.

The mountaintop finish for Stage 4 wouldn't have suited Cavendish anyway. It's more the style for Spanish cyclist Daniel Moreno (Katusha), who won the stage, or France's Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep), who took the overall leader's red jersey.

The exit by Cavendish could be good news for Washington-born cyclist Tyler Farrar (Garmin Cervelo), who will have to compete against one fewer sprinter in the upcoming flat stages. He'll have to wait a few days, however, as anything resembling a sprinter stage doesn't come until Stage 7 on Friday. Even that 116-mile route is rolling, which may benefit a breakaway more than a sprint.

Tuesday's 106-mile race that ended in Sierra Nevada was not kind to Pablo Latras, who was wearing the red jersey. He lost 18 minutes on the day, dropping like a stone from first to 75th overall.

Expect more of that on Wednesday, with two Category 2 climbs and a finish that ramps up at 23% at Valdepeñas de Jaén.

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