Israel-Premier Tech have been reduced to just one rider at Paris-Nice as sickness and flu has decimated the peloton over the first five days of the race.
Hugo Houle started stage five of the stage race alone after three of his teammates were forced to withdraw ahead of the day's action, on top of three that had already departed.
They are among 18 riders to not start stage five, a list that includes Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) and Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco).
Speaking ahead of the day, Houle said it was a first time thing for him to be riding along. "I feel pretty lucky to still be feeling good," he said. "So far so good, I will try to give it a go today, it's a nice stage, plenty of opportunity I think. I'm here and I'll do my best to get a good result."
James Piccoli and Carl Fredrik Hagen were reported to be out with "non-Covid viral symptoms", while Tom Van Asbroeck is out with the "early signs of a respiratory infection".
Guillaume Boivin withdrew ahead of stage three with back pain, while Mads Würtz Schmidt was caught up in a crash on stage two and Rudy Barbier was forced to abandon after just one stage due to illness.
Other teams to lose riders ahead of stage five were Alpecin-Fenix, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Team Arkéa Samsic, AG2R Citroën, Team DSM, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Bahrain-Victorious.
Crashes on the hectic crosswind-affected stage two appear to have caused some to abandon, but it is mostly non-covid illness causing problems.
Trentin was forced to withdraw with concussion symptoms on Thursday after a crash on Monday, with the team saying that a scan "revealed the presence of new symptoms in keeping with a post-concussive syndrome (worsening headache, sensation of pressure in his head, drowsiness, fatigue, feeling unwell, neck pain)".
Both Yves Lampaert and Zdeněk Štybar left the race due to illness, according to Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. The winner of the last two editions of the race, Max Schachmann, departed ahead of stage four due to feeling unwell.
Overall, 28 riders have abandoned Paris-Nice so far, which according to Procyclingstats is the the most to leave a stage race since 2011, and there are still four stages to be completed.
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