Greenedge Procycling team rider Simon Gerrans of Australia and Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Mark Cavendish crash during Stage 1 on July 5. (Yoan Valat/EPA)

With three of the biggest names in cycling, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, forced out of this year’s Tour de France because of injuries due to crashes, it might seem like 2014’s course has been more demanding than those of previous years. But that may not be the case.

Although a total of 15 racers are unable to continue the tour going into the second half of the, which starts with Stage 11 on Wednesday, last year there were 16, including top contender Jurgen van den Broeck, who left the race before Stage 6. And compared to 2012’s tour, which saw a whopping 24 cyclists out by the start of Stage 11, largely thanks to a crash that took down half the peloton in Stage 6, this year’s cyclists are doing extremely well. In fact, it’s pretty amazing there aren’t a lot more withdrawals considering this year’s route included the much anticipated, incredibly scary cobblestoned Stage 5 last week, which was unluckily paired with loads of rain. (Incidentally, that’s the stage that sent out 2013’s winner Froome of Team Sky.)

While Tour de France fans hope that tally doesn’t grow, it most likely will, as riders begin the difficult mountain stages. These more robust elevation changes, along with dealing with the effects of hundreds-going-on-thousands of peddled miles to their legs, will certainly cause more wear and tear.

In 2013, 29 riders couldn’t finish the tour, with four going out in the mountainous Stage 19 that traveled through the peaks of the Alps from Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornandand. The tour shows similar statistics from 2012 when a total of 45 riders couldn’t finish, with six of those succumbing to their tour demises during Stage 15, which traveled toward Pyrenees mountains from Samatan to Pau.

Perhaps the most difficult legs left in this year’s event are Stages 17 and 18. Both in the Pyrenees, the first features four categorizes climbs jammed into the 125-kilometer route’s final 70 kilometers. The second features two of the tour’s most famous ascents, the Tourmalet and the summit finish atop Hautacam.

It seems the real tour is only just beginning…


Mark Cavendish of Great Britain, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, did not start Stage 2

Sacha Modolo of Italy, Lampre-Merida, withdrew in Stage 2

Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, Trek Factory Racing, did not start Stage 4

Gregory Henderson of New Zealand, Lotto Belisol, withdrew in Stage 4

Chris Froome of Great Britain, Team Sky, withdrew in Stage 5

Ariel Maximiliano Richeze of Argentina, Lampre-Merida, did not start Stage 6

Xabier Zandio Echaide of Spain, Team Sky, withdrew in Stage 6

Egor Silin of Russia, Team Katusha, withdrew in Stage 6

Jesus Alberto Hernandez Blazquez of Spain,Tinkoff-Saxo, withdrew in Stage 6

Mathias Frank of Switzerland, IAM Cycling, did not start Stage 8

Bart De Clercq of Germany, Lotto Belisol, withdrew in Stage 8

Egoitz Garcia Echeguibe of Spain, Cofidis, Solutions Credits, withdrew in Stage 9

Alberto Contador of Spain, Tinkoff-Saxo, withdrew in Stage 10

Edward King of the United States, Cannondale, withdrew in Stage 10

Mathew Hayman of Australia, Orica Greenedge, withdrew in Stage 10