ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — This year’s Tour de France is proving too punishing for the peloton’s top sprinters.
A day after Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) were time-cut, several more marquee sprinters abandoned the Tour en route to Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.
Two-time Tour stage-winners this year Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) abandoned stage 12, as did André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).
All three pulled off as a dangerous breakaway chugged clear on the brutal three-climb stage across the Alps. With some GC threats in the breakaway group, including Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) who started the stage sixth overall, the main pack led by Team Sky set a menacing pace. The peloton fractured early and several top names pulled the plug on their respective 2018 Tour.
The high-profile abandons have immediate implications.
First, Gaviria’s exit all but assures Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) a record-tying sixth green jersey if he makes it to Paris. Gaviria was the only rider challenging Sagan up to now.
Second, the departures mean more chances for the sprinters still in the race for the three sprint-likely stages remaining in the Tour.
Other riders to abandon include Tony Gallopin, a key helper to Romain Bardet, who only has four Ag2r La Mondiale teammates left in the race.
EF-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán, second overall last year, also did not start in the wake of heavy injuries from his crash in stage 9 on the cobblestones.
Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal teammate Marcel Sieberg is also out, as is another lead-out man, Katusha-Alpecin’s Rick Zabel, who was granted clemency by the race jury on Wednesday after finishing mere seconds after the day’s time cut.