Chris Froome has been forced to quit the Vuelta a España after detailed medical checks and an MRI scan this morning revealed he suffered a fracture to a bone in his foot when he crashed at the start of stage 11 in Andorra on Wednesday.
Froome confirmed his Vuelta was over via Twitter, revealing that he had fractured the navicular bone in his upper foot. The navicular bone sits between the metatarsals in the foot and heel bone. The injury will almost certainly mark the end to Froome's 2015 season.
"I'm really gutted to be leaving the race but the injuries that I sustained on yesterday's stage were too much to continue," Froome later said via the Team Sky website.
"I hit my right side heavily and the main impact went on my right foot. I was desperate to dig in and finish the stage and my team-mates did brilliantly to get me through it, but as soon as I got off the bike I couldn't put any weight on my right side.
"An MRI scan has shown that I have fractured navicular bone in my right foot, so now I'll work with our medical team on making a full recovery.
"This is a great group of guys and I would love to have fought on with them until the end. I wish them all the best with the remainder of the race and I'll be cheering them on from home. I'd also like to thank the fans for all their support and get well messages. I'll be back soon!"
The Team Sky leader crashed after just three kilometres of Wednesday's stage but fought the pain to finish the 138km mountain stage around Andorra. Froome seemed to hit a low level wooden road barrier and then went into a wall. He said he was 'knocked sideways' into the barrier as the peloton squeezed into a narrow section of road.
Froome got back on his bike and chased hard to catch the peloton on the first climb of the stage. He had injured his left knee and shoulder but teammate Geraint Thomas later revealed that his foot was the most painful injury.
Guided on the climbs and descents by Thomas and other teammates, Froome tenaciously fought back to limit the damage, soloing across the line nine minutes after stage winner Mikel Landa (Astana) and clearly in pain. He slipped to fifteenth overall at 7:30.
"All I could do was ride at my own speed after the crash," Froome said afterwards. "That crash did take quite a lot out of me. From then on I just tried to hang on for dear life. I convinced myself just to get to the finish."
Froome crashed out of the 2014 Tour de France, raising questions about his bike handling ability and riding style. However, he silenced his critics with a strong performance on the cobbled and cross-wind stages at this year's Tour, which he went on to win.
Team Sky directeur sportif Dario Cioni praised Froome for battling on in the stage in pain following the crash.
"After the crash it looked like Chris had gone down hard and we were all quite worried. But he was the first to say he wanted to push on. He made his way back to the bunch on the first climb and even afterwards he was saying that he felt good," Cioni said.
"I think once the adrenaline from the crash wore off a bit the pain increased and he began to drop back. It was a really brave effort to get over those climbs to the finish, even though he was in a lot of pain. It just showed that he wanted to give himself every chance to stay in the race."
The Vuelta a España continues on Thursday with a largely downhill 173km stage from Escaldes in Andorra to Lleida. With Froome out of the race, Team Sky are expected to pursue stage victories with th likes of Geraint Thomas and Nicolas Roche, while Mikel Nieve defends his top ten overall placing.