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As 135 of the race’s original 176 starters line up Sunday afternoon at Paris La Défense for the final stage, the 2022 Tour de France is set to have its lowest number of finishers in 22 years.
The latest withdrawals were on the morning of stage 21, as Israel-Premier Tech rider Michael Woods is a non-starter after testing positive for COVID-19 in cruel timing for the Canadian.
His teammate Guillaume Boivin was also an abandon with illness, while Team Movistar rider Gorka Izagirre left the race in order to compete in his home race Monday, the Ordiziako Klasika.
COVID-19 has had a greater impact on the Tour de France than its last two editions, with 18 abandons owing to the virus, including four-time winner Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech), Enric Mas (Movistar Team), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and stage winners Magnus Cort Nielsen (EF Education-EasyPost) and Simon Clarke.
Some of the strongest teams in the race have been impacted. The UAE Team Emirates line-up of Tadej Pogačar was weakened by two positives on his team, with George Bennett and Vegard Stake Laengen forced to leave.
Only four of the race’s 22 teams are set to finish with a full complement of eight riders: B&B Hotels-KTM, Groupama-FDJ, Ineos Grenadiers and Intermarché-Wanty Gobert-Matériaux,.
As is customary, crashes and other illness/injuries have been significant factors in other abandons. Jumbo-Visma, the team with the most stage wins in the race, had withdrawals for Steven Kruijswijk and Primož Roglič related to falls.
The hot temperature and fast average speed, expected to be the quickest in race history, has also added to the rate of attrition. For comparison, the 2021 edition had 141 finishers.
22 years since fewer finishers
For a lower number of finishers, you have to go back to the 2000 Tour de France. It had 127 official finishers, as sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens was disqualified after crossing the line for a bust-up with Bobby Julich.
The two youngest competitors in this year’s edition, American pair Quinn Simmons and Kevin Vermaerke, weren’t even born when that race took place.
The anticipated figure of 137 finishers is a slight misnomer, however. It is the lowest number in 22 years but until the 2018 Tour de France, each team had nine starters rather than eight in the modern era, so there was a greater total number of competitors.
Therefore, the percentage of abandons was marginally greater in 2007, when there were 49 abandons from a field of 190 starters.
Whatever the statistics say, it’s always a significant achievement and an immense satisfaction to finish the Tour de France for any professional cyclist.