Sam Bennett will not be able to defend his Green Jersey at this year's Tour de France after being forced to withdraw through injury.
The Carrick-on-Suir rider missed this month's Baloise Belgium Tour with a knee injury and while it was originally indicated that he would be fit in time for the Tour, it has now emerged that he will miss out.
Bennett took last year's Green Jersey in style, winning two stages, including the finale at the Champs-Élysées, becoming the first Irish rider to win the points classification title since Sean Kelly in 1989.
However, he will not be in position to complete two-in-a-row and will be absent when the Tour commences in Brittany on Saturday.
"Needless to say, I'm very disappointed to not be able to defend my green jersey at this year’s Tour de France," Bennett said this afternoon.
"I had a very minor incident during training a couple of weeks ago, which effected my knee.
"While the injury I sustained is very short-term, it impacted my training for the biggest bike race in the world all too much and left me without enough time to be race fit.
"Le Tour deserves me at my best and it would do my team, and myself, an injustice to race in my current condition. I wish the whole Wolfpack a successful three weeks on the road of France"
Bennett's place in the Deceuninck-QuickStep team will be taken by renowned Manx sprinter Mark Cavendish, himself a Green Jersey winner back in 2011.
"I am delighted to be going back to the Tour de France with Deceuninck-QuickStep," Cavendish said.
"Obviously, the circumstances with Sam could be better - he had a special Tour last year and I am sad for him not being able to defend his green jersey. But at the same time, I am excited to be going back to a race that I have such an affinity with and where I have so much history."