More than two and a half years since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the virus continues to disrupt professional cycling, with the Vuelta a España 2022 the latest major race to suffer a depleting field.
After just 11 days of racing at the Spanish Grand Tour, the attrition rate due to COVID-19 stands at an eye-watering 21 riders.
That figure does not include riders who were scheduled to start the race but were withdrawn and replaced at the last minute.
It took four stages for the first positive case to be uncovered but since Dan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo) left the race on August 24 there has been a steady stream of abandons.
For several days, it was relatively minor figures affected, but in the past few days some major names have been taken out of the running. Two-time stage winner Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) went home ahead of the stage 10 time trial that kickstarted the second week on August 30, and the following day two contenders for the overall podium went home in Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers).
Yates, who won the Vuelta in 2018, was sitting fifth overall after 10 stages but leaves a Grand Tour with COVID-19 for the second time after the 2020 Giro. His exit is also a blow for his team as they scrap to avoid relegation from the WorldTour.
The attrition rate of 21 riders in 11 stages has already made this Vuelta one of the most disrupted races since the pandemic began. At this year’s Tour de France, a total of 17 riders left the race with COVID-19.
There have been higher rates of abandons at Grand Tours in the past couple of years, when rules dictated that whole teams had to withdraw in the event of multiple positive tests, but not since those rules were scrapped.
The Vuelta marks another wave of COVID-19 in the pro peloton, after even higher rates of exits were seen in the spring – notably around Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice – and in the early summer, with just 76 riders finishing the Tour de Suisse.
A total of 184 riders started the Vuelta a España, and it remains to be seen how many make it to Madrid, and whether we may see further high-profile abandons affecting the final results.
The full list of COVID-19 abandons at the Vuelta
- Dan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo)
- Jan Hirt (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
- Jaakko Hanninen (AG2R Citroën)
- Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën)
- Mark Donovan (Team DSM)
- Victor Langellotti (Burgos-BH)
- Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic)
- Pieter Serry (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)
- Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious)
- Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma)
- José Herrada (Cofidis)
- Harry Sweeny (Lotto Soudal)
- Jarrid Drizners (Lotto Soudal)
- Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar)
- Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe)
- Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco)
- Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers)
- Pau Miquel (Kern Pharma)
- Roger Adria (Kern Pharma)
- Hector Carretero (Kern Pharma)