PARIS • Britain's four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome has been ruled out of this year's race after suffering a bad fracture in France yesterday.
The 34-year-old crashed at high speed during a reconnaissance ride before Stage 4 of the Criterium du Dauphine, a time-trial section in Roanne, France.
"It is a very serious accident. Clearly, he won't be at the start of the Tour de France," Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford was quoted as saying by French media.
"It sounds like he was at the foot of the descent, and it's 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 badly injured and it sounds like he has a fracture of the femur, to be confirmed. He's not in hospital yet. He's just going to get airlifted to a hospital shortly.
'So obviously, we're trying to manage that at the minute and make sure he's got the best care.
"In the meantime, we're obviously thinking about (his wife) Michelle, his family and everybody else. Making sure that he's being given the best possible care."
In a Twitter post, the team also said: "Team Ineos can confirm that Chris Froome crashed during a recon (reconnaissance) of stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine today.
"He is currently on his way to a local hospital and won't start today's fourth stage. We will provide a further update in due course."
According to the Daily Mail, Froome was planning to use the Criterium race - of which he is a three-time winner - as a final warm-up event for the July 6-28 Tour de France.
Five of the last seven winners of the race have gone on to claim the yellow jersey in Paris.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was swift to wish Froome a speedy recovery.
"We hope he gets well soon. The Tour de France won't be the same without him. Chris Froome has been the central character at the Tour since 2013," he said.
"His withdrawal changes the whole thing. Even if they have the title-holder Geraint Thomas and let's not be lured into underestimating Egan Bernal, who will be his lieutenant or possibly more," Prudhomme added of two key Ineos riders.
This year has been disappointing for Froome. He took part in the Tour of Colombia, but the rarefied air at altitude and the long climbs failed to suit him, coming in 91st in the run through the Andes.
Critics had been lukewarm over his chances given that he was 94th at the Tour of Catalonia, 11th in the Tour of the Alps and 13th at the Tour de Yorkshire.
The Kenyan-born Froome, who at his best combines top-level time-trialling skills with a fearsome prowess for climbing, won the Tour de France in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and was seeking a record-equalling fifth victory after giving the Giro d'Italia a miss this year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DPA