Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has been forced to pull out of the Circuit Sarthe cycling race before Wednesday's second stage because of illness, his RadioSchack team said.
The 38-year-old Texan is suffering from a viral intestinal infection which he picked up during last week's Tour of Flanders and will return home to the United States as soon as he feels better.
Five from the eight Team RadioShack riders who competed in Flanders have been hit by the illness.
Team director Alain Gallopin said: "As far as Lance Armstrong is concerned, maybe we will have to change his programme again. That's work for the coming days.
"Lance was really keen on performing well, especially in the time trial of Wednesday afternoon. He showed his growing condition in the Tour of Flanders, where he came in with the first group sprinting for the fifth place."
Armstrong told fans via micro-blogging site Twitter that "six of the eight guys from our Flanders squad are down and out with a stomach bug" before adding on Tuesday night: "Not so lucky I guess. Sicker than a dog now. This sucks."
He posted on Wednesday morning: "Well, I'm alive. Barely it feels like. That was the roughest stomach virus I've ever had. Tough night. Thanks for all the support."
It was Armstrong's fourth participation in the French event following his appearances in 1999, 2001 and 2003.
© AFP 2010