Race director Christian Prudhomme said “the Tour de France is sad” after Mark Cavendish crashed out of what is set to be his final appearance in the event.
Manxman Cavendish, 38, broke a collarbone in an innocuous-looking crash about 60km from the finish of stage eight from Libourne to Limoges.
That means he is set to retire on a record-equalling 34 stage victories – the same as Belgian legend Eddy Merckx.
“It is an emotional day, he was so sad just after the fall,” said Prudhomme.
Cavendish announced in May he would retire at the end of the season.
“He is the best sprinter in the history of the Tour de France and he wanted to try to win the 35th stage,” added Prudhomme.
“He is sad, we are sad, the Tour de France is sad.”
After missing last year’s Tour, Cavendish entered this year’s race looking to take sole ownership of the record for stage victories.
The Astana Qazaqstan rider was agonisingly close to doing just that on Friday, but an issue with his gears allowed Jasper Philipsen to pip him.
Cavendish was “bitterly disappointed” by that – and within 24 hours his race was over.
He hit the deck after touching wheels with Pello Bilbao and was helped into the back of an ambulance and taken to hospital in Perigueux.
“Everyone in the team is hurting,” said Mark Renshaw, who was Cavendish’s lead-out man from 2009-2011 and in 2016, and joined Astana as a sprint adviser prior to the Tour.
“I won’t lie, I cried.”
Cavendish made his Tour debut in 2007 and has failed to finish seven of his 14 appearances.
Mads Pedersen, who won Saturday’s stage, said it had been a “pleasure” to ride against him.
“I always had a good relationship with him in the peloton,” said the Dane. “It’s so sad for a legend to finish the Tour like this.”
Two-time winner Tadej Pogacar said: “I think everybody here wanted him to win one stage, and yesterday he was super close. It’s a bad moment.
“He was one of my favourites when we were kids. Him sprinting on the Champs-Elysees…. we just wanted to have his style and his legs.”