The Tour de France started on July 5 in England with 198 riders. At the halfway point– eleven stages down, ten to go– there are 179 riders left in the race. Nineteen have quit, including at least three cyclists expected to win the Tour. The number of abandoned riders isn’t unusual, but the fact that so many team leaders are out, is.
Star sprinter Mark Cavendish was the first to withdraw from the Tour after a nasty crash on opening day in Harrogate, his mother’s hometown. The 29-year-old British rider for Omega Pharma-QuickStep bumped heads with Simon Gerrans in the finish sprint. Both riders hit the ground, and Cav dislocated his collarbone. Cav admits he was to blame. Since then, he had surgery and his recovery is expected to take six weeks.
Next star to fall was Trek’s Andy Schleck, who withdrew four days into the Tour with an injured knee. The Luxembourg rider was in a group that crashed during stage 3 when a spectator in London stepped into the road to take photographs.
Schleck tweeted to his fans: “Very disappointed to let you know that i will not be able to start. My knee is too damaged from the crash. This is a huge blow for me.”
Defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome crashed twice even before the nervous peloton reached the bone-jarring cobblestones in stage 5. The 29-year-old Team Sky leader was the undisputed favorite to win the Tour this year, but he hurt his wrist in a crash the previous day and was no longer able to grip the handlebars.
The next big-named rider to leave the Tour was Tinkoff-Saxo team leader Alberto Contador, who crashed halfway through stage 10 while reaching into his jersey back pocket. It was a devastating crash that left a big gash in the Spaniard’s right knee. He waited four minutes on the side of the road for medics to patch up his bleeding leg. He got back on his bike and pedaled for a while but the pain was too great. He fractured a bone and was left with no option but to pull out of the race.
Alberto Contador cracked his knee bone during a high speed crash in the mountains of stage 10. Photo by AFP.
Fabian Cancellara (Trek) announced his departure from the Tour on the rest day prior to stage 11. Cancellara was one of the few big-named riders who did not get hurt in the Tour. He said he abandoned the race in order to prepare for September’s Road World Championships in Spain.
With those guys out, here are some of the top contenders to win: Italy’s Vicenzo Nibali (Astana), Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Moviestar), Australia’s Richie Porte (Sky), American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) and Portugal’s Rui Costa (Lampre). My Euros are on Nibali.