Chris Froome has been ruled out of the Tour de France after suffering a suspected broken femur when he crashed at high speed into a wall.
The four-time Tour champion was taken to hospital on Wednesday following the serious crash before stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine.
The Team Ineos rider came off his bike during a reconnaissance of the day’s ride, forcing his withdrawal from the race.
A spokesperson confirmed to Press Association Sport that he had suffered a suspected broken femur and was out of the Tour.
Team boss Sir Dave Brailsford added on cyclingnews.com: “It sounds like he was at the foot of the descent, and 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 60kph 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, to be confirmed.”
Froome’s wife Michelle said Froome was involved in a “high-speed crash” while scoping out the route for Wednesday’s time trial around Roanne.
Writing on her husband’s Twitter account, she said: “Chris is on his way to hospital after a high speed crash during the route recon earlier this afternoon.”
Froome was eighth in the overall classification after three stages of the eight-day race, just 24 seconds behind leader Dylan Teuns.
The 34-year-old was using the race as part of his 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.