Halfords has pulled out of the race to buy Evans Cycles, casting fresh doubt on the chain’s future.

Halfords had been in talks with PwC, which is advising Evans on its options, and is thought to have tabled an initial offer to rescue the struggling business last month.

But according to Sky News, Halfords has now backed away from discussions after opting to focus on its Cycle Republic and Tredz businesses, rather than pursuing its rival.

It leaves Evans scrambling to get the fresh funding it needs to secure its future, with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct emerging as the new frontrunner to snap up the retailer.

Any takeover is likely to value Evans at between £10m and £20m.

The business was formed in 1921 and trades from around 60 stores across the UK, but has slipped into the red amid a perfect storm of rising costs, weak consumer confidence and rapidly changing shopping habits.

Earlier this year, Evans owner ECI Partners parted company with the retailer’s boss Andy King, who had been at the helm for less than two years.

He was replaced on an interim basis by Alan Fort.