GUTTED Aussie Luke Durbridge has been forced to abandon the Tour de France after his fight to ride with ankle ligament damage failed.
The Orica-Scott workhorse could hardly walk after slamming into the barriers during the rainy stage one time trial, but was determined to soldier on and help his teammates.
Durbridge was hopeful he could nurse himself to the finish of the 203.5km journey from Dusseldorf to Liege and recover in coming days, but the pain became too much 25km in.
"When I was out there I just couldn't get out of the saddle. I was virtually pedalling on one leg," Durbridge said.
"It's probably the hardest bike race in the world to pull out of. I'm very upset to not be able to support the team and I just love the Tour de France and love working with this team.
"It's going be a couple of weeks off the bike before I can hopefully build back up for the World Championships in the back end of the season."
Orica-Scott general manager Shayne Bannan said Durbridge was most conscious of leaving Orica a man down with jobs to do to protect leaders Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates.
"This is like playing in the grand final in the AFL. These guys work all year, let's face it the Tour de France is the ultimate for any cyclist. It's what they dream of," Bannan said.
"The painkillers these guys use are very mild for the obvious reasons. He's a tough guy and a tough character."
Durbridge, an under-23 time trial world champion, was an outside chance to win the opening day's race against the clock, but was one of many riders to lose control in terrible conditions.
"I was going out there and I was giving it everything in the wet, risking maybe a little, but you've got to be in it to win it," he said.
"I think if I'd crashed and not got injured I would have come out with no regrets. I would have been like 'At least I had a go for the win', but because you've come out with an ankle injury you're thinking 'No, I shouldn't have done that'.
"But 98 per cent of the time you don't crash in TTs. This is my first crash in a TT anyway. But I pushed the limit and I found it.
"When you think about it you've got 25mm (of rubber) on a piece of road and it's pissing wet so what do you expect?"
X-rays cleared Durbridge of any breaks, but despite round the clock icing the night before, he couldn't continue.
"I've had some bad luck the last couple of weeks, but that's all right. I'll fight back and the team is fully behind me," he said.