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France’s Thibaut Pinot crosses the finish line during the 15th stage of Tour de France. Pinot abandoned the race with a thigh injury. Image Credit: AP

Tignes: Thibaut Pinot’s Tour de France challenge came to an abrupt and heartbreaking halt on Friday when the home favourite abandoned the race with a thigh injury during the 19th stage.

His Groupama-FDJ team explained that the 29-year-old, who was fifth overall and still had a genuine shot at the title, sustained the injury when he collided with another rider’s handlebars while trying to avoid a pile-up on Wednesday.

“We had some hope after seeing him keep up with the best yesterday but the pain was too strong today,” said the team’s sports director Philippe Mauduit.

“It’s extremely tough, he had done everything to be a contender in this Tour.” A team statement said that Pinot, who has won stages on all three grand tours and won the Giro Di Lombardia, a ‘Monument’ classic, last year, had sustained a ‘muscular injury’.

“He had trouble walking last night after finishing the 18th stage with a sharp pain,” the statement read.

Pinot climbed into his team car with 87 kilometres to go in the 126.5km mountain trek from St-Jean de Maurienne.

The 19th stage was stopped because of an upcoming hailstorm, organisers said.

Timings were taken at the top of the Col de L’Iseran, with Colombian Egan Bernal taking the overall lead from France’s Julian Alaphilippe.