Finishing the Tour de France is an achievement in itself. Every year, some riders don’t manage to make it to the famous final sprint stage on the Champs-Élysées be it due to crashing or picking up illnesses along the route as immune systems are weakened with the physical load of a Grand Tour. The threat of Covid-19 in recent years has made things even more complicated: on rest days, both riders and staff have to take tests and, if positive, they have to leave the race.
Unlike last year, where we saw multiple mass crashes early on in the Tour de France, the opening week of this year’s race wasn’t quite so hectic in terms of accidents. This means not as many riders have abandoned after crashes, but many have suffered illnesses which have ruined their chances of finishing one of cycling’s toughest stage races.
Perhaps one of the most affected teams in this year’s Tour when it comes to riders abandoning is that of race favourite Tadej Pogačar. UAE Team Emirates lost key domestique Vegard Stake Laengen on stage eight following a positive Covid-19 test. A few days later, following further rest day tests, George Bennett also returned a positive result and was forced to abandon.
Polish rider Rafał Majka also tested positive after the race’s first full rest day, but further examinations from the UCI and UAE Team Emirates doctors determined that his levels of infection were low enough that he was not at risk of contaminating other riders. This means that Pogačar is down two domestiques, with a further third teammate likely not performing at his highest level.
Ben O’Connor of AG2R Citroën Team (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
AG2R Citroën Team’s Ben O’Connor is another of the big names to have to leave this year’s race, but not due to Covid-19. The Australian yellow jersey hope tore his glute muscle in stage eight to Lausanne and the pain meant it was too hard to continue for the 26-year-old. "It's like pedalling with one leg. I fought it yesterday, I really wanted to see if I can get past this point of pain [but] it's just too much. It's like having a knife in your arse, more or less, so it's pretty brutal,” O’Connor explained in a heartfelt video on his team’s social media.
Another GC contender, Jack Haig of Bahrain-Victorious, crashed on the wild cobbles of stage five. With 30 kilometres to go, Haig hit a displaced barrier in the road and sustained abrasions and a wrist fracture. With their main GC hope out of the race, the rest of Bahrain-Victorious will now have freedom to go for stage victories. Daniel Oss of TotalEnergies was also a victim to the treacherous pavé of Northern France, colliding with a spectator and breaking his neck in the process.
Guillaume Martin tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of stage nine, weakening Cofidis’s roster in this year’s race – a big blow for the French squad. Another home favourite for a stage win, Alexis Vuillermoz, suffered heat stroke during stage nine, collapsing and being rushed to hospital straight after the stage. His team, TotalEnergies, later announced that the Frenchman had suffered from a skin infection and was vomiting during the stage.
Elsewhere, Fabio Jakobsen’s leadout train has been weakened by the abandonment of Kasper Asgreen before stage nine, with the Danish rider suffering from a knee injury that he sustained after a crash in the Tour de Suisse in June.
Mathieu van der Poel waved goodbye to the race during stage 11 after the Dutchman failed to reach his desired form in the Tour this year. Primož Roglič is another big name who has left the race, unable to recover from injuries sustained in crashes in the earlier stages of the race.
So, it’s fair to say it’s not been smooth sailing for everyone in this year’s Tour de France so far. The threat of Covid-19 still looms and strict testing protocols mean that more riders could return positive tests later in the race. Here’s the full list of of abandonments so far:
- Jack Haig, Bahrian-Victorious (crash)
- Michael Gogl, Alpecin-Deceuninck (crash)
- Daniel Oss, TotalEnergies (crash)
- Alex Kirsch, Trek-Segafredo (illness)
- Vegard Stake Laengen (positive Covid-19 test)
- Geoffrey Bouchard, AG2R Citroën Team (positive Covid-19 test)
- Kevin Vermaerke, Team DSM (crash)
- Gianni Moscon, Astana Qazaqstan Team (illness/long Covid-19)
- Kasper Asgreen, Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl (injury)
- Guillaume Martin AG2R Citroën Team (positive Covid-19 test)
- Ruben Guerreiro, EF Education-EasyPost (illness)
- George Bennett, UAE Team Emirates (positive Covid-19 test)
- Ben O’Connor, AG2R Citroën Team (injury)
- Alexis Vuillermoz, TotalEnergies (Illness)
- Luke Durbridge, Team BikeExchange Jayco (positive Covid-19 test)
- Mathieu van der Poel, Alpecin-Deceuninck (unknown)
- Oliver Naesen, AG2R Citroën Team (illness
- Warren Barguil, Team Arkea Samsic (positive Covid-19 test)
- Victor Lafay, Cofidis (illness)
- Primož Roglič, Jumbo-Visma (injury)
- Magnus Cort Nielsen, EF-Education EasyPost (postive Covid-19 test)
- Simon Clarke, Israel-Premier Tech (postive Covid-19 test)
- Steven Kruijswijk, Jumbo-Visma (crash during stage)
- Michael Mørkøv, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (out of time limit)
- Marc Soler, UAE Team Emirates (out of time limit, illness)
- Mikael Cherel, AG2R Citroën Team (positive Covid-19 test)
- Aurelien Paret-Peintre, AG2R Citroën Team (positive Covid-19 test)
- Lennard Kämna, BORA-hansgrohe (illness)
- Max Walscheid, Cofidis (positive Covid-19 test)
- Jakob Fuglsang, Israel-Premier Tech (crash, injury)
- Rafal Majka, UAE Team Emirates (injury)
- Fabio Felline, Astana Qazaqstan Team (illness)
- Tim Wellens, Lotto Soudal (positive Covid-19 test)