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(Reuters) - Olympic and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins' withdrawal from the Tour of Britain with a stomach bug on Friday has left the race without one of its main attractions.
Fans flocking to the 190 km route from Powys Castle in Welshpool to Caerphilly Castle in south Wales were left disappointed after Wiggins failed to start the sixth stage, which was won by Czech rider Leopold Koenig.
Wiggins' fellow Briton Jonathan Tiernan-Locke grabbed the overall lead after finishing just behind Koenig.
However, rather than cheering on those who crossed the line first, spectators were lamenting Wiggins' absence.
"I'm sorry to have to pull out of the Tour," Wiggins told his Team Sky website (www.teamsky.com).
"I've loved the last six days, meeting so many people around the country and enjoying those crowds along the roads. It has been a great experience, but this bug sadly means I'll now miss the climax this weekend.
"I'm sorry I can't continue and would like to thank all those fans, of all ages, for the support."
Amateur rider Joel Bland, 18, from Lampeter, was one of thousands who had lined the streets and after learning about Wiggins's withdrawal, he told the BBC: "I can't believe that. That's a shame."
The race finishes on Sunday.
(Writing by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris)
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