SAINT-ÉTIENNE, France (AFP) – Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome has undergone surgery and was in intensive care yesterday a day after slamming into a wall at high speed and suffering multiple fractures.
The force of the impact during practice ahead of the fourth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine race in central France fractured his pelvis, right femur, and left him with broken ribs and a broken right elbow.
“He’s not in great shape. There are crashes and bad crashes and this was a bad crash,” said his Ineos team principal Dave Brailsford.
He said the 34-year-old Briton had undergone initial surgery which had gone well and “will remain in hospital for at least two days in Saint-Etienne” before a decision on further treatment, possibly back home in Britain, is taken.
Brailsford said Froome had no hope of competing in the Tour de France next month and his full focus was now on recovery after the horror crash which happened on a downhill stretch of road in the Loire region.
Froome was riding with Dutch teammate Wout Poels when he lost control of his bike and slammed into the wall of a house at full speed.
“We have had a look at his data, he went from 54km/h to a dead stop,” Brailsford said.
The accident happened in the village of Saint-Andre d’Apchon. Froome had taken his hands off the handlebars in order to blow his nose “and the wind’s taken his front wheel and he’s hit a wall,” Brailsford added.
Following treatment on site Froome was airlifted to intensive care at Saint-Etienne hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.
Froome’s wife Michelle Cound tweeted that she was on her way to join him there and asked fans to keep the rider “in your thoughts.”
Brailsford said that Froome had worked “incredibly hard to get in fantastic shape and had been on track for the Tour” which starts on July 6 from Brussels. The Criterium du Dauphine represents a full dress rehearsal and Froome was doing well, in eighth spot before the crash.
Late Wednesday, Brailsford said Froome had the mental force needed in the battle for recovery that lay ahead.
“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.”
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Froome’s absence was a blow to the 2019 edition of cycling’s biggest stage race.
“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 said of Froome’s two Ineos teammates.
French climber Romain Bardet, who came second to Froome on the 2016 Tour de France, described the news of the extent of his fellow rider’s injuries as “dreadful”.
“I didn’t realise it was that serious,” Bardet said.
“It’s never nice when one of your rivals gets unlucky like that.” Froome had started the year in low-key finish. He trailed in 91st in the Tour of Colombia, 94th at the Tour of Catalonia, 11th in the Tour of the Alps and 13th at the Tour de Yorkshire, leaving critics lukewarm over his 2019 Tour de France chances.
The Kenyan-born Froome, who at his best combines top level time-trialling skills with a fearsome prowess for climbing, first won the Tour in 2013 with Team Sky.
He went on to further Tour de France wins in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He also won the 2017 Vuelta a Espana and the 2018 Giro d’Italia, making him the greatest Grand Tour rider of his generation.