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TIGNES, FRANCE:
Mathieu van der Poel pulled out of the Tour de France on Sunday after a spectacular star turn in the overall lead came to a shuddering halt in the Alps.

The Dutch Tour rookie spent six days in the yellow jersey, but now heads to Tokyo, where he will go for Olympic gold in his preferred mountain biking discipline.

"My Le Tour de France has already been a success. I'd prefer to race until Paris, I like it here. But we also have to consider my other goals," van der Poel said.

"We took the decision this morning, I'm not starting today's stage," said the 26-year-old.

"Thank you for an amazing week and all those unforgettable moments, Mathieu," his Alpecin Fenix team said on social media just ahead of the start of Sunday's run to a summit finish in Tignes at 2100m altitude.

"Mathieu Van der Poel won't be at the start of today's stage, and leaves Le Tour de France after an amazing week!"

Grandson of French cycling legend Raymond Poulidor, Van der Poel set pulses racing with his gung-ho stage 2 win where he took the yellow jersey that his grandfather never wore despite eight podium finishes on the Tour.

It took him a Herculean effort and he at first threw himself to the ground gasping for breath before weeping in relief for the settling of the family debt he'd promised his grandfather, saying "if only he were here."

Roadside fans in France then cheered him all the way from western Brittany to the chic ski resorts on the Swiss border where Van der Poel dug deep to maintain his lead, but his large frame means the all-rounder is unable to keep up with the lighter climb specialists.

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