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British sprinter Cavendish pulls out of Tour

The Associated Press

YORK, England (AP) -- British sprinter Mark Cavendish pulled out of the Tour de France on Sunday with a serious shoulder injury likely to require surgery.

Cavendish, with his arm in a sling underneath his sweatshirt, said outside the team bus before the start of the second stage that he was ''absolutely devastated.''

The 29-year-old sprinter known as the ''Manx Missile'' had made the Tour his main goal this season but saw his hopes of winning his first yellow jersey disappear on Saturday when he hit the ground near the finish of the first stage in his mother's hometown of Harrogate.

Cavendish, who took responsibility for the crash after taking Australian Simon Gerrans down with him, was diagnosed with a separated shoulder.

''Normally, I bounce well when I crash,'' Cavendish said at York racecourse. ''I assessed my body yesterday and for the first time in my career I knew something was wrong. I really had this little bit of optimism that I might be OK this morning but it's just impossible.''

Cavendish will undergo a MRI in Manchester on Monday night that will determine whether he needs surgery on his shoulder.

One of the most successful sprinters in the history of the race, Cavendish has won 25 Tour stages. The last time he retired from cycling's showpiece event was in 2008 when he left the race early to get ready for the Beijing Olympics.

Cavendish's team doctor Helge Riepenhof said it's likely the sprinter will need surgery that will sideline him for about six weeks, likely ruling him out for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow from July 23-Aug. 3.

''It's a serious injury but he can recover well and it should not affect his future performances,'' Riepenhof said. ''He is really sad because he wanted to show that he was ready to win a stage in his home country. He wanted to race but he can't.''

Cavendish's maiden ride in the Tour in 2007, when the race started in London, was also marred by crashes that led to his early exit.

''It could be worse for me,'' the Omega Pharma Quick-Step rider said. ''I've got friends who have come back from Afghanistan with the armed forces. My friend Josh is a double amputee on his legs and missing his right arm. He just sent me a message joking saying 'I've got a spare arm for you.'''

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Jamey Keaten in York contributed to this report.

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