Philippe Gilbert abandons the Tour de France

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) has had to quit the Tour de France after crashing on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet during stage 16.

The Belgian struggled to get down the stairs of the race's medical truck after the stage, and had to be helped by the race doctor. He was taken to hospital by ambulance for an MRI scan.

When asked if his race was over, Gilbert gave a simple reply: "Yes, my Tour is over."

Gilbert, part of the day's breakaway, launched a solo move on the climb of the Col de Portet d'Aspet and was leading on the descent when he overcooked a corner. He unclipped his foot in an attempt to slow his speed and make the corner, but he hit a stone wall on the side of the road and was thrown from his bike and into the large ditch on the side of the road.

He was eventually pulled out, and, fuelled by adrenaline, got back on his bike and completed the stage, and was even given the combativity prize. He made the trip to the podium but only did the briefest of post-race interviews before making his way to the bus with his left calf heavily strapped.

"It was not so bad. It was not so deep – I think I fell about four metres," he told Sporza, referring to the void over the wall. "But there were a lot of stones, and while I lay there, I thought: 'I broke everything.' I didn't dare move at first. I waited, but fortunately people came to help me pretty quickly. I'm in a lot of pain and my knee is badly damaged, but I don't think I've broken anything, fortunately."

However, Gilbert's Quick-Step team confirmed on Tuesday evening that the Belgian had in fact fractured his patella.

Gilbert was clearly emotional speaking to Sporza, and when he spoke to media outside the team bus at the finish in Bagnères-de-Luchon, he burst into tears before climbing onto the bus. He was eventually driven by the team doctor to the medical truck situated outside the Tour's press room. He was able to get in under his own steam, but had a visible limp. The pain had clearly increased in the 20 minutes he had been with the doctor, and he required help from two people to get down the stairs and walk the short distance to the ambulance.

As he was strapped into position in the ambulance, race director Christian Prudhomme came to visit him and spoke with him for some time before he was taken to the hospital. The image of Gilbert crashing so heavily on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet had brought back horrible images of Fabio Casartelli's fatal crash in 1995. Thankfully, Gilbert was able to walk away from his incident, but his race is over just four stages short of Paris.

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