Alpe d'Huez - At
this rate there will be few sprinters left to contend the prestigious
final stage on the world famous Champs Elysees after Andre Greipel and
Fernando Gaviria joined four other big names on the Tour de France
scrapheap on Thursday.
Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, who claimed his maiden stage win last
year on the Champs Elysees and won stages seven and eight on this
edition, was the first to get off his bike, before the halfway stage of
the gruelling 12th stage held over 175.5km between Bourg d'Oisans and
It came a day after Britain's Mark Cavendish, Australian Mark Renshaw
and Katusha star Marcel Kittel were all eliminated after failing to
make the time cut at the end of Wednesday's 11th stage.
Between them, Cavendish (30), Kittel (14), Greipel (11) and Groenewegen (3) count 58 stage wins.
But shortly after Groenewegen's abandon, Lotto-Soudal star Greipel
called it a day as he struggled on the Col de la Croix de Fer.
"Le Tour loses another sprinter. After Kittel, Cavendish and
Groenewegen, now Andre Greipel gives up," said a brief statement by
Rick Zabel (Katusha), the son former green jersey winner Erik Zabel,
followed suit. And soon after, Gaviria (Quick Step) also got
off his bike, becoming the second Colombian to abandon after last year's
runner-up, Rigoberto Uran, pulled out before the start of the stage.
Cavendish, who had been chasing Eddy Merckx's record tally of 34 wins, crossed the line 1:05:33 on Wednesday.
Earlier on Thursday Tony Gallopin, a key helper for podium-chasing
team-mate Romain Bardet, pulled out to leave his AG2R team with just five