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More details are emerging Thursday that reveal just how serious Chris Froome’s crash was Wednesday.
Team Ineos officials confirmed to VeloNews that Froome remains in intensive care Thursday morning in a French hospital, following overnight surgery in the wake of a high-speed crash Wednesday that has forced the four-time Tour de France winner out of this year’s race.
Team Ineos officials said the surgery “went well” and will update Froome’s condition later Thursday. Froome suffered fractures to his right femur, ribs and elbow. Officials also confirmed to VeloNews that Froome fractured his right hip as well.
“Chris woke up this morning and was reviewed by the intensive care consultants and the orthopedic specialists who operated on him, and they’re both very happy with his progress to date,” said Dr. Richard Usher in a team statement. “Chris will remain in [the] hospital for the next few days for observation, but he is already actively engaging in discussing his rehabilitation options, which is very encouraging.”
French surgeons told AFP on Thursday that Froome would stay in intensive care for 48 hours for observation following a four-hour operation on injuries that included a compound fracture on Froome’s right femur. Doctors confirmed there were no head injuries and suggested that Froome could resume racing within six months.
“The injuries are limited to the musculoskeletal system, and there was no hit to his head, and there was no neurological injury,” Dr. Rémi Philippot told AFP. “Chris Froome, who has a winning morale, quickly recovered, asking right away when he can get back on a bike. He should be able to resume the competition within six months.”
Froome crashed into a wall going nearly 55kph in a training ride ahead of a time trial stage Wednesday at the Critérium du Dauphiné. He was initially treated on the scene before being transported by ambulance to a local hospital in Roanne, and was later airlifted to a larger facility in Saint-Etienne for surgery.
According to team officials, Froome was previewing the 26.1km time trial stage Wednesday afternoon in Roanne a few hours before his scheduled start time in the fourth stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné. He was joined by teammate Wout Poel, with sport director Servais Knaven, mechanic Gary Blem and trainer Tim Kerrison following in a team car.
According to Poels, who was trailing behind Froome, the pair had topped the Saint-André-d’Apchon climb (2.3km at 7.6%) that was midway through the course. They were on the descent when Froome raised his hand from his aero handlebars mounted on the time trial bike to blow his nose.
According to Poels and Brailsford, a strong gust of wind caught Froome’s wheel and caused the Kenyan-born British rider to lose control. Froome was traveling at nearly 55kph on a straight section of road lined by houses when he struck a low wall and crashed heavily on his right side.
“It was the worst crash I ever saw,” Poels told the Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad. “I was just 10 meters behind, and I saw everything. Chris was lucky because there was an ambulance just a bit down the road and others from other teams took care of him. I kept going. I was in shock for an hour afterward.”
Brailsford said the high-speed impact left Froome crumpled in pain, and it appears Froome bore the brunt of the impact on his right side.
“[Froome] signaled to Wout that he was going to clear his nose, he took his hand of the bar to do that and a gust of wind took his front wheel. He lost control and went straight into the wall of a house,” Brailsford told BBC. “We have had a look at his data, he went from 54kmh to a dead stop.”
Race officials had positioned an ambulance along that sector of the course, just 100 meters from the site of the crash, meaning that Froome received immediate medical attention. According to a report in L’Equipe, emergency staff treated Froome for two hours in the ambulance before being transported to a local hospital
Due to the seriousness of Froome’s condition, doctors in Roanne stabilized him before he was airlifted Wednesday evening to a larger facility at the Saint-Étienne University Hospital, about 85km away. His wife, Michelle Froome, was en route to join him in France.
According to an interview by L’Equipe with Gilbert Versier, an orthopedic surgeon working on the race, it appears Froome suffered a compound fracture to his right femur. Team Ineos officials have not confirmed that diagnosis.
“A fracture to the femur is something terrible to bear. It would cause frightful pain,” Versier told L’Equipe. “An open [compound] fracture would explain why he was cared for so long at the ambulance, at the point of the crash, before being taken to hospital.
“The femur would have torn muscle as well. His quadriceps would have been skewered. The trauma must have been very violent. And there could have been bleeding. He could have lost a liter or a liter and a half of blood.”
Given the seriousness of the injuries, there are concerns not only that Froome will miss this year’s Tour de France, but that his racing career could be in jeopardy.
Speaking to the BBC BeSpoke podcast Wednesday evening, Brailsford said Froome will make a comeback if his injuries allow him to.
“He’s been operated on to make sure that first phase of medical care is as optimal as possible and we will manage it from there,” Brailsford said. “It’s an evolving situation. It is concerning, there is no doubt about that. Time is of the essence in these situations.”
Check back to VeloNews for more updates on Froome’s condition and how his absence will impact the Tour de France.