Four-time winner Chris Froome is out of the Tour de France after fracturing his leg, hip, arm and ribs in a horrific high-speed crash on Wednesday.
Team Ineos confirmed the 34-year-old’s dream of a fifth Tour de France title this year was over after a gust of wind hurtled him into a wall towards the end of a “recon” ahead of the Criterium du Dauphine’s fourth stage time trial.
Froome suffered multiple fractures in his right femur, right elbow and ribs, and “will remain in hospital for at least two days in Saint-Etienne” before a decision on further treatment is taken, said his Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford.
It appeared Froome had taken his hand off the handlebars in order to blow his nose “and the wind’s taken his front wheel and he’s hit a wall,” Brailsford told the BBC.
“It’s a tough one, to be honest. He’s not in great shape,” he said, adding that Froome also broke his hip in the crash.
Brailsford said that the four-time Tour de France winner had worked “incredibly hard to get in fantastic shape and had been on track for the Tour.
“Even though we all recognise the risks involved in our sport, it’s always traumatic when a rider crashes and sustains serious injuries.
“One of the things which sets Chris apart is his mental strength and resilience – and we will support him totally in his recovery, help him to recalibrate and assist him in pursuing his future goals and ambitions.”
Brailsford said Froome had been on a high-speed downhill stretch with Dutch teammate Wout Poels when the crash happened.
“They were going very fast,” Brailsford told French television.
The accident happened in the Loire region village of Saint-Andre d’Apchon with fellow competitors estimating he would have been travelling as fast as 60 kilometres per hour (38 miles per hour).
“He could hardly speak. He’ll be helicoptered to either Lyon or Saint-Etienne hospital within a few minutes,” said Brailsford at the scene as Froome received treatment in an ambulance.
TOUR ‘WON’T BE SAME WITHOUT HIM’
This year’s Tour de France begins on 6 July and race director Christian Prudhomme was swift to wish Froome a speedy recovery.
“We hope he gets well soon. The Tour de France won’t be the same without him. Chris Froome has been the central character at the Tour since 2013,” he said.
“His withdrawal changes the whole thing. Even if they have the title holder Geraint Thomas and let’s not be lured into underestimating Egan Bernal, who will be his lieutenant or possibly more,” Prudhomme said of two key Ineos riders.
French climber Romain Bardet, who came second to Froome on the 2016 Tour de France, described the news of the extent of his fellow rider’s injuries as “dreadful”.
“I didn’t realise it was that serious,” Bardet said when told after the time trial won by Wout van Aert.
“It’s never nice when one of your rivals gets unlucky like that.”
This year has been disappointing for Froome. He trailed in 91st in the Tour of Colombia, 94th at the Tour of Catalonia, 11th in the Tour of the Alps and 13th at the Tour de Yorkshire, leaving critics lukewarm over his 2019 Tour de France chances.
The Kenyan-born Froome, who at his best combines top-level time-trialing skills with a fearsome prowess for climbing, first won the Tour in 2013 with Team Sky.
He went on to further Tour de France wins in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He also won the 2017 Vuelta a Espana and the 2018 Giro d’Italia, making him the greatest Grand Tour rider of his generation.
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