Chris Froome’s bid to win a fifth Tour de France was destroyed on Wednesday by a horror crash that saw him hit a wall on his bike at 40mph.
Froome was on a reconnaisance ride of the time trial course of the Criterium du Dauphine in Roanne, central France, when, according to Team Ineos boss Sir Dave Brailsford, he took his hands off his bars to blow his nose and lost control. It left him nursing a fractured femur, a fractured elbow and broken ribs.
Brailsford said he would definitely miss the 2019 Tour and suggested it would be some time before he is riding again, such is the seriousness of the injuries.
It also raises the question of whether, at 34, Froome can recover to make a future tilt at the Tour and join the ranks of Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain by winning in France for a fifth time.
It is a massive blow to Froome, who was favourite to regain the Tour title from team-mate Geraint Thomas, but also to INEOS after their £120million takeover of the team earlier this year.
A statement issued by Team INEOS on Wednesday night said: ‘Team INEOS can confirm that Chris Froome sustained multiple serious injuries during a recon of stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine on Thursday.
‘The 34-year-old 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.
‘Froome has been ruled out of the rest of the race and will also miss the 2019 Tour de France.’
Froome was taken by ambulance to Roanne Hospital and then airlifted to St Etienne University Hospital, where he was in intensive care. On Wednesday night Froome’s wife, Michelle, was heading to the hospital to visit him.
Team INEOS team doctor Richard Usher said: ‘I would like to commend the treatment he received from the emergency services and all at Roanne Hospital in assessing and stabilising him. We will now turn our focus towards supporting him in his recovery.’
Brailsford said: ‘Our primary focus now is ensuring Chris gets the very best possible care, so he can recover as soon as possible. One of our big strengths on this team is coming together in difficult moments, and we will ensure we do everything possible to support Chris and his family.
‘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.
Earlier, Brailsford had said: ‘He’s had a bad crash actually, it sounds like he was at the foot of the descent. It’s very gusty today and he took his hands off the bars to blow his nose and the wind’s taken his front wheel and he’s hit a wall at 60kph.’
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.’