Alberto Contador has abandoned the Tour de France after breaking his right leg in a crash on stage ten.
The Spaniard fell heavily with just under 100km of a mountainous day remaining and although he remounted his bike and tried to catch back up to the peloton, he was unable to continue and quit the race around 20km later.
It initially appeared that Contador's right knee had taken the brunt of the impact, with medics applying bandages to a cut, but subsequent X-rays revealed a fractured tibia.
Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis said: “Alberto crashed on a fast and straight part of the descent. He was reaching for his pocket and the bike was swept away under him, probably because of a bump or hole in the road.
"Alberto has broken his tibia just below the knee. It’s not a complicated fracture, but it probably requires surgery. He will stay with us tonight and tomorrow he will travel back to Madrid to undergo further examinations and a surgery if necessary."
Contador took more than four minutes to remount his bike after the incident and although he started gingerly, after about 5km he looked back up to full speed and had closed to within just over three minutes of the main bunch, which had temporarily slowed to wait for him.
However, he was then forced to receive further treatment from the race’s medical car and his deficit subsequently grew back out to over four and a half minutes.
With the pain still not easing, Contador began thanking the team-mates who had tried to pace him back to the peloton and then climbed off his bike and into the Tinkoff-Saxo team car.
Froome offers sympathy
Contador, who was bidding to win the Tour for the third time following triumphs in 2007 and 2009, had been lying ninth overall, 4min 8sec down on leader Tony Gallopin.
The 31-year-old's withdrawal leaves Vincenzo Nibali, who regained the race lead by winning stage ten solo, as the strong favourite to claim overall victory.
Contador falls to the same fate as Team Sky rider and defending champion Chris Froome, his fellow pre-race favourite for victory, who abandoned the race on stage five after a spree of crashes.
Froome offered his comiserations to Contador on Twitter, and inadvertently revealed he will race the Vuelta a Espana later in the summer. He tweeted: "Big loss for the TDF today. Recover well @albertocontador & I hope to see you at the Vuelta."