It is not the way he would have wanted, but Geraint Thomas’ chances of retaining his Tour de France title have been significantly boosted after team-mate Chris Froome sustained multiple serious injuries after a crash in France.
The Team INEOS duo were expected to battle It out next month when Thomas begins the defence of his Yellow Jersey in Brussels.
But four-time champion Froome is definitely out of Le Tour following the crash on the Criterium du Dauphine, the key race in the build-up to the three weeks event.
The 34-year-pole was on a recon for stage four on Wednesday When he crashed towards the end of his route in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, sustaining injuries including a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs.
Team Doctor, Richard Usher, said: “Chris was taken to Roanne Hospital where initial examinations confirmed multiple injuries, most notably a fractured right femur and right elbow.
“He has also suffered fractured ribs. He is now being airlifted to St Etienne University Hospital for further treatment.
“On behalf of the Team, I would like to commend the treatment he received from the emergency services and all at Roanne Hospital in assessing and stabilising him.
“We will now turn our focus towards supporting him in his recovery.”
Team Principal, Sir Dave Brailsford, added: “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.
“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.
“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.”
The team’s focus should now, inevitably, centre around Cardiff-born Thomas who last year rode his way into the record books by becoming the first Welshman to win the world’s greatest cycle race and only the third Brit after Froome and Bradley Wiggins.
Froome had been determined to regain the Yellow Jersey and claim a record equalling fifth triumph.
In recent mon this both riders and the team have insisted they could cope with the pressure of having two riders bidding for the same goal.
There had even been suggestions Thomas might focus on the Giro d’Italia instead but he dismissed those, saying being on the start line in Belgium on July 6th as defending champ.