Chris Froome is out of the Tour de France after sustaining ???multiple serious injuries??? in a freak high-speed accident. The four-times champion, who is in intensive care, broke a leg, ribs and an elbow after colliding with a wall outside the town of Roanne in the Loire on Wednesday. He lost control in high winds when he attempted to blow his nose while cycling at 37mph.
The accident seriously dents the chances of Team Ineos winning the Tour at the first time of asking under their new identity, after taking six of the previous seven titles as Team Sky. The 34-year-old faces months of convalescence and is unlikely to race again this season.
The unfortunate nature of the accident was compounded by the fact Froome was not racing at the time. He had been conducting a reconnaissance of the fourth stage of the Crit??rium du Dauphin??, an event he had been using as part of his preparation for the Tour.
He was airlifted to St Etienne University hospital where he had surgery. In a statement Team Ineos said: ???Chris Froome sustained multiple serious injuries during a recon of stage four of the Crit??rium du Dauphin??. He crashed towards the end of his route recon in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, sustaining injuries including a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs. He will miss the 2019 Tour de France.???
Dave Brailsford, the Ineos general manager, was at the roadside in Roanne. ???It sounds like he was at the foot of the descent,??? he told Cycling News. ???It???s obviously very gusty today and he took his hands off the bars to blow his nose and the wind has taken his front wheel. He???s hit a wall at 60km/h or something like that, he???s got a bad fracture, he???s badly injured and it sounds like he has a fracture of the femur.???
Speaking to Radio 5 Live???s BeSpoke podcast, Brailsford added: ???He???s not in great shape. He???s in intensive care. There are crashes and bad crashes and this was a bad crash. It???s a very serious accident. Clearly, he won???t be at the start of the Tour de France.???
Later on Wednesday evening a tweet from Froome???s official account ??? signed MF, the initials of his wife Michelle ??? read: ???Chris is in surgery at the moment to repair the multiple fractures, please keep him in your thoughts. I hope to be able to share a message from him tomorrow morning - MF.???
Froome had been chasing a record-equalling fifth title in the Tour de France. If he returns to race again next year he will be 35 and only one champion, Belgium???s Firmin Lambot in 1922, has won the competition at an older age. It is also the second time Froome???s Tour prospects have been ended by an accident. In 2014, his hopes of retaining his first title were dashed after only five stages when a third crash in two days left him suffering fractures in his left wrist and right hand.
Christian Prudhomme, the general director of the Tour de France, offered his commiserations to the rider. ???My thoughts are first of all with him, because his fall was truly serious,??? he said. ???It???s clear the Tour without Froome is not the same thing. Naturally we are going to miss him.
???He has been one of the landmarks of the race, a central figure since 2013. His team will still have several strong leaders nonetheless. There is Geraint Thomas, the title holder, who can become the natural leader of the team. But there is also the young Colombian Egan Bernal, who is very promising.???
With Froome absent, Thomas, who became the third Briton to win the Tour last year, is expected to be the undisputed leader of Team Ineos in the race. Froome and Thomas had been expected to share the role but Brailsford suggested the team???s priority would be to ???do whatever we can??? to facilitate Froome???s fifth title. In his absence the Welshman will almost certainly be the beneficiary of team instructions, while the 22-year-old Bernal is also expected to have a breakthrough race. Thomas is not taking part in the Dauphin?? and will race instead in the Tour de Suisse this weekend.
There was also bad news in the UK, where the leader of the Women???s Tour, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, was forced out of the race after being caught up in a crash outside Didcot in Oxfordshire. Vos hit her head in a collision that happened as the peloton upped the speed for an intermediate sprint.
Belgium???s Jolien D???Hoore won the third stage, which ended at Blenheim Palace, while Germany???s Lisa Brennauer claimed the overall lead in the classification.