Kiwi George Bennett may be gone from the Tour de France, but he still has a big fan in seven-time winner Lance Armstrong.
After several days of illness, Bennett dropped out of the French classic early on today's Stage 16, unable to keep pace with his rivals in the general classification over the 165km journey from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère.
The Kiwi was previously sitting in 12th place, but had risen as high as ninth last week, when he caught the admiring eye of fallen Tour hero Armstrong, who tipped him as a future winner and a big threat over the closing stages of this event.
The Texan was stripped of his titles, after publicly admitting to doping in January 2013 and will go down in history as one of sport's most notorious drug cheats. He has produced a daily "Stages" podcast throughout this 2017 edition of the Tour de France.
"You have the favourites, the leader, the charming stars, but then there's always the sneaky person and George Bennett is the sneaky one," Armstrong said, last Thursday.
"Obviously, guys like Chris Froome can't ride forever, but kids like Simon Yates, Adam Yates and George Bennett are going to be factors and potential Tour winners in the future."
Today, he was mourning Bennett's early departure.
"I hope we didn't jinx him," rued Armstrong.
"He's a young guy, he's a small rider ... you never know why or how somebody gets sick, and he got some sort of chest thing.
"This is not a human event, this is an inhumane event. What they put their bodies through is unlike anything that the world of sports knows, so it's easy to get sick."
Armstrong has had a soft spot for Bennett, since the Kiwi, now a Tour of California winner, rode on his Trek Livestrong development team in 2011.
"In the coverage, you saw he was off the back and then he just pulled the plug, which was sad to see," he lamented.
"I've still got stock in George Bennett - he's still an exciting one to watch."