During stage 4 of the Criterium du Dauphine in Roanne, Wout van Aert's emphatic time trial victory for Jumbo-Visma was overshadowed by the news earlier in the day that three-time race winner Chris Froome (Team Ineos) had crashed during his recon and was out of the race on his way to the hospital.
An hour or so later, team principal Dave Brailsford confirmed to a large group of reporters at the race, including Cyclingnews, that Froome had a suspected fracture of the femur and it was clear he was out of the Tour de France. Froome was mounting a challenge for a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title.
Froome's teammate Wout Poels was riding just ahead of Froome on the recon of the course when the incident happened and described the crash to a group of journalists just after finishing his time trial, where the Dutchman finished in 19th place.
"We were after the climb on the downhill and the wind took Chris Froome's wheel and he went down like really, really hard on the floor, and I think we were going 66 or 65kph. It was really bad," Poels said.
"It was pretty windy out there and especially on a TT bike. I mean especially with the high wheels and you're also in a little bit of a less comfortable position of course. Yeah, it can happen. If you go down at 65kph, and he went down really, really hard, then you know it's not really good."
Poels himself suffered serious injuries during the 2012 Tour de France, where a mass pile-up at high speeds saw Poels rupture his spleen and kidneys, bruise his lungs, break three ribs and end up in intensive care. The crash forced Poels off the bike for three months, but he has since gone from strength to strength, becoming one of Chris Froome's most important Grand Tour lieutenants, alongside winning a Monument in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
"I hope it's not as bad a crash as what I had in 2012, but I mean it's also sport. There's also the mentality with us that sometimes you have a bad injury or accident and then you fight back. Hopefully, you can come back stronger."
Cyclingnews understands that Froome was down for some time after the incident, receiving medical treatment almost immediately from a nearby race ambulance before being airlifted to hospital.
"The DS car was behind him and luckily there was an ambulance 100 metres next to the course, so they came straight to him. I didn't go back but waited a little and saw he was in care, so thought it was better to leave the professionals there and give him the first aid. I didn't speak with him."
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