Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome will miss this year’s race after sustaining “multiple serious injuries,” including a fractured leg, in a horrific crash during a practice ride in France Wednesday.
“He underwent successful surgery last night but remains in intensive care,” a spokesman for Team Ineos, who Froome rides for, told CNN Sport on Thursday.
The 34-year-old Froome, who won cycling’s most prestigious race in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, was competing in the Criterium du Dauphine near Roanne, central France, when he crashed at speed ahead of the fourth stage time trial.
Froome was initially assessed at Roanne Hospital before being airlifted to St. Etienne Hospital where he underwent a six-hour operation which “went very well,” according to team doctor Richard Usher.
“Chris woke up this morning and was reviewed by the intensive care consultants and the orthopaedic specialist who operated on him and they’re both very happy with his progress to date,” Usher continued.
“Chris will remain in hospital for the next few days for observation, but he is already actively engaging in discussing his rehabilitation options, which is very encouraging.”
Speaking on Radio 5 Live’s BeSpoke podcast on Wednesday, Team Ineos general manager Dave Brailsford said his lead rider wouldn’t be able to defend his yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
“He’s not in great shape. He’s in intensive care,” said Brailsford. “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.”
“It wasn’t just a serious accident, it was also a freak one.
“It sounds like he was at the foot of the descent,” Brailsford 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.”
The Briton, who has also won the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, suffered a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs, said a statement on his Team Ineos website.
“Our primary focus now is obviously on ensuring Chris gets the very best possible care, which he will do, so he can recover as soon as possible,” said Brailsford.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
Froome was targeting a record-equaling fifth Tour de France title this year to join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain at the top of the sport.
Last year, Froome finished third in the Tour behind teammate Geraint Thomas of Wales.
Thomas, the fourth Briton to win the Tour de France, is favorite to win this year’s race ahead of 2018 runner-up Tom Dumoulin.