Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) was unable to start stage 16 of the Tour de France after scans revealed a fractured wrist resulting from a crash on the previous stage. Howson came down near the finish of stage 15 after being in the day's break. He was able to finish the stage and rode on Monday's rest-day but further pain and a lack of motion in his wrist meant that the team were forced to pull the Australian from the race.
As stage 16 rolled out from Carcassonne, Howson was driven back home to Girona, Spain, where he will recover and possibly ride the Vuelta a España in August.
"There's a small fracture in the wrist but we need to see with the scaphoid," Matt White told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 16.
The team confirmed that Howson could have soldiered on but that they had a duty of care to both their rider, and the rest of the peloton, to make the difficult decision of taking out and sending home.
"We can't tell yet as to the full extent of this injuries, so out of a duty of care to the rider we can't let him start today. The plan was to see if he could start but we needed to see what the injury was like and see how he rode on the rest-day and if he had a full range of movement.
"Unfortunately, the range of movement wasn't enough and the medical team checked him thoroughly. We couldn't send him into the stage today because it wasn't safe for him or the people around him. It's devastating for him but the priority is rider safety and health. The correct thing to do is to think of him first. For sure we’d love him here because he’s one of our climbers but you’ve got to look at your duty of care first," added White.
With Howson heading home to recover the Mitchelton squad carry on in their pursuit of a stage win in the Pyrenees. For Howson, the next step could be the Vuelta a España, where the team have already confirmed that Simon Yates will lead their GC challenge.
"He would fit into our Vuelta squad very well and he's done it before and he played a very big part in the Vuelta for us last time. First thing is first, we need to let him heal," said White.
Chaves out until further notice
One rider who will not be at the Vuelta a España is Esteban Chaves. The Colombian has not raced since the Giro d'Italia, where after winning a stage he faded out of contention. He has gone through medical tests throughout the last few months and was a possibility for the Vuelta, but his ongoing health problems mean that he will not race until further notice.
"At the moment Esteban won't be returning to competition until he's fit and healthy. We have no timeline and that decision to come back will be made when the time is right and he's healthy. Our priority there is to look after Esteban," White said.