Four-time Tour de France winner Christopher Froome is out of this year’s race after a serious accident while training, his manager has confirmed to French television.
The 34-year-old hit a wall and is in a “very serious state”, according to Dave Brailsford, who heads up the Ineos cycling team.
"They were driving very fast, there was a lot of wind. He (Froome) blew his nose, the wind took the front wheel and he went into the wall," Brailsford explained.
The accident happened in central France, in the village of Saint-André d'Apchon, Loire department, on a downhill stretch which can see riders travel at around 60 km/h.
Froome was competing in the Critérium du Dauphiné race, using the alpine event as a test in the run up to this year's Tour, which will start on July 6 in Brussels.
A tweet from the team earlier read: “We can confirm that Chris Froome crashes during a recon [sic] 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 wish him all the best in his recovery," Tour Director Christian Prudhomme told AFP, saying: "With him or without him, it obviously won't be the same thing. Chris Froome has been the central character of the Tour since 2013."
Froome's accident "changes the game," he added. "Even though the Ineos team is very strong with defending champion, Britain's Geraint Thomas, the Colombian Egan Bernal should not be underestimated."
The injuries are the most serious Froome has sustained in his career since reaching the top level in the early 2010s.
The Briton has fallen several times in recent years, notably during his recon ride of the TT course in Jerusalem but he was still able to take part in the race and went on to win it three weeks later.
Brailsford underlined Froome's "mental strength and resilience" in a statement.
The cyclist is under contract until the end of 2020.