Double Tour de France champion Chris Froome has been forced to pull out of the Vuelta a España after tests showed the Briton had fractured a bone in his foot in a bad crash on Wednesday.
The injury is likely to bring a premature end to Froome’s season, which would rule out a ride in the World Championships later this month. In any case, with a second Tour de France victory in the bag, Froome’s year is already an outstanding success.
His bid to become Britain’s first ever Vuelta winner took a huge knock when he crashed hard into a low-level wooden barrier early on Wednesday’s ultra-hard stage in Andorra and dropped out of contention with 40km to go.
At Wednesday’s finish the time gap of nearly nine minutes between Froome and stage winner Mikel Landa and the way Froome was limping badly already spoke volumes about the scale of the Briton’s setback. Later that evening, when Froome tweeted he could only walk on crutches, the injuries seemed even more serious.
The Sky leader’s exit from the race was finally confirmed this morning, with Froome failing to take the start and heading directly for Barcelona airport by car.
He told Sky’s website: “I’m really gutted to be leaving the race but the injuries that I sustained on [Wednesday’s] stage were too much to continue.”
In 2011, the Vuelta was the scene for Froome’s breakthrough result in Grand Tour racing when the Sky rider took a wholly unexpected second place overall ahead of team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins, before finishing fourth in 2012. The Briton then finished second overall behind Alberto Contador last year.
The stage to Lleida ended in a bunch sprint win for Dutch rider Danny van Poppel, while Fabio Aru of Italy leads overall.