Chris Froome will miss the Tour de France after sustaining multiple serious injuries in a crash.
The four-time Tour champion suffered a broken femur, a broken elbow and broken ribs on Wednesday during his reconnaissance ahead of stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine.
It was immediately feared the 34-year-old had broken his leg and, after being taken to a nearby hospital, further injuries were confirmed as his hopes of a fifth Tour title this year were dashed.
The extent of Froome’s injuries was revealed in a team statement on Wednesday evening.
“Team Ineos can confirm that Chris Froome sustained multiple serious injuries during a recon of stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine today,” it read.
“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 subsequently been ruled out of the rest of the race and will also miss the 2019 Tour de France.”
Team doctor Richard Usher explained the injuries and said the focus would now turn to supporting Froome during his period of recovery.
“Chris was taken to Roanne Hospital where initial examinations confirmed multiple injuries, most notably a fractured right femur and right elbow,” said Usher.
“He has also suffered fractured ribs. He is now being airlifted to St Etienne University Hospital for further treatment.
Sir Dave Brailsford, Ineos team principal, praised Froome’s preparation for an attempt at winning his fifth Tour de France title – something he will now be prevented from trying to achieve this year.
“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.
“Even though we all recognise the risks involved in our sport, it’s always traumatic when a rider crashes and sustains serious injuries. Chris had worked incredibly hard to get in fantastic shape and was on track for the Tour, which unfortunately he will now miss.”
Froome was eighth in the overall classification after three stages of the eight-day race, just 24 seconds behind leader Dylan Teuns, with fellow Briton Adam Yates now leading after the time trial stage.
The race was being used as part of Froome’s build-up to this year’s Tour de France, which starts on July 6.
The Tour is only three and a half weeks away and Froome’s preparations this season had been built around peaking for the race as he looked to join an elite group of just four riders to have won five Tour titles.
Injury also scuppered Froome’s Tour chances in 2014, although on that occasion his hopes ended on stage five of the race itself.
Racing as defending champion, he was forced to pull out following a third crash in two days, suffering a fractured left wrist and right hand.
Froome’s absence means defending champion Geraint Thomas will now be Team Ineos’ leader for the Tour. The Welshman is due to compete in the Tour de Suisse on Saturday.
Ineos can also call on 22-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal, who is back in training after the broken collarbone he suffered ahead of the Giro d’Italia.
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.”