Kiwi quartet George Bennett, Dion Smith, Patrick Bevin and Finn Fisher-Black have failed to finish the gruelling world championship road race, which was won by Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe on Monday (NZ time).
Both Bennett and Smith were in a whittled-down front group when the French riders turned up the heat on the penultimate of nine laps. Bennett, who has struggled to recover fully from the Tour de France where he fought through a rib injury and a virus, was dropped and the rest soon followed suit.
"It was a disappointing but not surprising day," says Cycling NZ sporting director Craig Geater.
"The group gave it everything. Today the legs were not there on what was a really tough course.
"Finn Fisher-Black impressed us as an 18-year-old, and with Paddy Bevin, they did their part to support George and Dion who both made it into the peloton for the business part of the race.
"George has struggled all week to recover from the Tour [de France] with his injuries and illness and when the French put the power on up the climb with two laps to go, he could not go with it.
"Dion hung in there until the next attack came just before the bell when he was dropped. He was riding mostly to support George and so the sensible thing was to save his legs a little with more racing for him this week.
"This is a very unique year. Most of the racing season is being squeezed into three months and all of the guys are racing again this week. For Dion and Patrick, it is in two days and for George, it is the last of the Grand Tours at the Vuelta in three weeks."
For Alaphilippe, he timed his late attack perfectly to claim the world championship road race title on Sunday, giving France its first rainbow jersey since 1997.
Alaphilippe's brutal acceleration on the last climb of the 258.2km race left his rivals in his wake and the Frenchman eased to the line with Belgian Wout van Aert having to settle for silver. Swiss Marc Hirschi took bronze.
"It's hard for me to say something. I want to say thank you to all my teammates who believed in me today," says Alaphilippe, the first Frenchman to win the title since Laurent Brochard 23 years ago, said.
"We did a great job. It was the dream of my career. I came so close already but never made it to the podium. I came with a lot of ambition, it's just a dream come true.