Vuelta hit hard by abandons

Lotto Belisol and Vacansoleil down to four riders

There were only 159 riders at the start of Sunday's Vuelta a Espana stage, after a dramatic number of abandons on Saturday due to the terrible weather conditions. Two teams are down to only four riders each, with the final week of the race still to come. A total of 14 riders abandoned the race yesterday, most of them due to the cold, while there were two non-starters.

Lotto Belisol and Vacansoleil-DCM are the two teams hardest hit. Lotto Belisol lost three riders during Saturday's bad-weather stage, and having lost two rides earlier, is down to four riders. Vacansoleil-DCM's Thomas de Gendt had been disqualified earlier in the race, and Barry Markus had abandoned. Two riders did not finish on Saturday and Thomas Marczynski's illness overnight brought the Dutch team down to four riders.

Only four teams started the day at full strength: Astana, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Lampe-Merida and Team Sky.

The 159 riders is not the smallest number to start the 15th stage of the Vuelta in recent years. 2009 saw only 155 riders. In comparison, 2010 was 168, 2011 was 176, and 2012 could boast of 183 riders still in the race.

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