Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) already knew his Tour de France was over before he was diagnosed with a fracture to his left kneecap on Tuesday evening. The Belgian was on the attack from a breakaway on stage 16, descending the treacherous Col de Portet d'Aspet, when he misjudged a bend and ran into a low stone wall before cartwheeling over the edge to the ground three metres below.
His team confirmed that he sustained a "fracture on the lateral pole of his left patella" and on Wednesday issued an update that he would be off his bike for "a few weeks" and out of competition for at least six weeks.
However, considering the death of Fabio Casartelli on the same descent 23 years ago, Gilbert knew his crash could have ended much worse.
"First of all, I want to say that I’m happy to be here after that tough moment," Gilbert said in a team press release. "I landed pretty hard on some stones, and initially didn’t want to move, but someone from Mavic came and helped me stand up and crawl back from that ravine."
The cycling world breathed a sigh of relief when Gilbert stood on the roadside and gave the thumbs up to the television camera, but after he finished the stage and was examined in the medical truck, he knew he would not continue on stage 17.
"This isn't how I wanted to finish my Tour, and leaving it like this really hurts," Gilbert said. He was awarded the most combative prize for his attack, and his teammate Julian Alaphilippe claimed the stage victory, but if the Frenchman had any nerves after passing Gilbert's accident he didn't show it as he later hurtled down the Col du Portillon en route to the win.
"Seeing his bike on the ground, I got a bit scared, so I slowed down on the descent," Alaphilippe said. "It's a real pity he crashed and is now out of the Tour. He's been a huge helper for the team during the race and he deserves a lot of credit for the role played in our success."