American Lance Armstrong has pulled out of the Paris-Nice race with a sore throat.
The six-times winner of the Tour de France will return to his home at Girona in Spain for treatment, according to a statement on his Discovery team's website.
"I had finally adjusted to the jet lag of the trip but woke up this morning with a sore throat that seemed to get worse all day," Armstrong said on Wednesday. "I will return to Spain to rest up and be back on the bike in a couple of days."
Paris-Nice was the first major event on the agenda of the Texas rider after he decided to enter the Tour de France in July and chase for a seventh consecutive victory in the most gruelling cycle race of the world.
But even before he returned to France, the American made it clear that he did not expect anything from Paris-Nice apart from spending time on his bike in race conditions.
"This is my first race of the season and I'm not physically fit at the moment," he said. "I'm certainly a bit late in my preparations as I have spent more time than usual in the United States this winter."
Armstrong finished at a disappointing 140th place in the Sunday's prologue, an individual time-trial of 4.5 kilometres in the Paris suburbs.
The Discovery team leader then lost more ground on leaders when he was trapped in a collective fall in the first stage near Chabris on Monday.
He then finished twice with the bunch but he seemed to suffer from the bad weather as the second and the third stages, shortened because of the snow, were raced in sub-zero temperatures.
When he pulled out, Armstrong was 62nd overall, one minute 35 seconds behind race leader Tom Boonen of Belgium.
His withdrawal means that Armstrong will now have to reshuffle his schedule and bring in some changes in his preparations for the Tour de France.
He is considering taking part into the Setmana Catalana next week before returning to the United States for the Tour of Georgia.
Armstrong had said that he wanted to focus on spring's one-day races and he could race in the Tour of Flanders on April 3 before entering either the Dauphine Libere or the Tour of Switzerland.