Hopes of a fully fit line-up at this year’s Tour de France are hanging by a thread after an outbreak of Covid-19 cases tore through the Tour de Suisse peloton.
Overall leader Aleksandr Vlasov, three teams and about 30 riders were forced to pull out of the Tour de France warm-up with Vlasov’s team Bora-Hansgrohe saying he and team-mate Anton Palzer had tested positive.
The UAE Team Emirates, Alpecin-Fenix and Bahrain Victorious teams also withdrew, one day after the Jumbo-Visma squad left the eight-day race, which finishes Sunday.
“In the interest of the health of all riders and staff at the (Tour de Suisse), leaving the race is considered the most sensible decision by the team management and medical staff,” Alpecin-Fenix said.
Four positive tests, including 2012 Olympic road race silver medalist Rigoberto Uran, were detected among the Education First squad in Friday morning tests.
Swiss rider Marc Hirschi and Diego Ulissi also tested positive in the UAE squad, which cited “team safety reasons and the wider cycling community” for leaving the race.
Ineos Grenadiers have also lost Adam Yates and Tom Pidcock who both tested positive for Covid with the former Yates nominally the team leader at the Tour, and Pidcock hoping to make his debut there.
The Swiss race is one of the last events to prepare for the three-week Tour de France, which starts in two weeks.
Regardless of what some believe, this is the biggest and brashest bike race in the world, with an estimated 80 per cent of most WorldTour team’s sponsorship income being based around the Tour.
Founded in 1903 by Henri Desgrange, editor of L’Auto newspaper, the Tour may not be the favourite stage race of the cycling cognoscenti but it is one that captures the imagination of the wider sporting public. As a result, the race is the biggest annual sporting event in the world with more live spectators than even the Olympics or football World Cup.
When does the Tour de France start?
This year’s Tour de France starts with a 13.2-kilometre individual time trial through Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, on Friday July 1, 2022.
How long is this year’s Tour de France?
The second grand tour of the season comprises 21 stages and will be contested over 3,328 kilometres – that’s 2,068 miles in old money – which is an average of 158.47km (98.46 miles) per day.
And when does the Tour de France finish?
The Tour de France concludes with its traditional final stage in Paris, on Sunday July 21. The race will again end on the famous cobbled Champs-Élysées boulevard following a 115.6km saunter from Paris La Défense Arena on the outskirts of the city.
Where does each stage start and end?
How can I follow the race?
Those with subscriptions to Eurosport (through discovery+ Sport and Entertainment pass) or GCN+ are in luck, both will broadcast every day, as will be ITV4 and Welsh terrestrial channel S4C. In Wales S4C is available on Sky 104, Freeview 4, Virgin TV 166 and Freesat 104, while in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland it can be found on Sky 134, Freesat 120 and Virgin TV 166 and also on iPlayer. Live shows and highlights programmes will be shown at different times each day. Alternatively, if you are stuck at work or do not subscribe to Eurosport if you have a sports package with the likes of Sky and BT or GCN+ – or cannot access S4C – then you can follow the action, as it unfolds, right here with Telegraph Sport. Almost every stage will be live blogged by our team – details to follow – while selected race details and standings in the main classifications will also be published.