Chris Froome said “he is lucky to be here” after suffering multiple fractures in a high-speed crash that ruled him out of the Tour de France.
Froome was airlifted to hospital in Saint-Etienne for emergency surgery after slamming into a wall at high speed during practice on Wednesday ahead of the fourth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine.
The force of the impact fractured his pelvis, right femur, hip, right elbow and left him with broken ribs.
“I know how lucky I am to be here today and how much I owe to all the paramedics and medical staff on the race,” said Froome.
Froome will miss out on a chance to win a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title next month, but after successful surgery there is hope he could return to cycling in six months.
“Whilst this is a setback and a major one at that, I am focusing on looking forward. There is a long road to recovery ahead, but that recovery starts now and I am fully focused on returning back to my best,” Froome said in a statement given by Team Ineos.
He was pictured in a his hospital bed, smiling and giving a thumbs-up to the camera.
“This is obviously a tough time but I have taken a lot of strength from the support over the last three days. The outpouring of support has been really humbling and something I would never have expected.”
Froome was travelling at around 50 kilometres per hour when a gust of wind hurtled him towards a wall after he momentarily took his hand off the handlebars to blow his nose.
In thanking the medical care he has received, the British rider also acknowledged his gratitude to the medical services.
“I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Team, especially Doctor Richard Usher and his medical staff, who have been exemplary since the crash.
“In addition, I am so thankful to the emergency services and everyone at Roanne Hospital who assisted and stabilised me, as well as the surgeons, doctors and nurses at the University Hospital of St Etienne, who have really gone above and beyond the call of duty, for which I am ever so grateful.”
Froome may be gone from the Criterium du Dauphine but he is not forgotten with Wout Poels of his Team Ineos dedicating his win in the mountainous penultimate stage on Saturday to the stricken Briton.
“It’s great news for the team and this is a present for Chris,” Poels said after the win. “It was nice to have the freedom to go for the win, but it’s sad for Chris.”
On the Tour de Suisse, meanwhile, where reigning Tour de France champion and teammate Geraint Thomas is taking part, Ineos team director Gabriel Rasch said it was business as usual.
“There’s no extra pressure on the guys this week given what has happened to Froomey,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thomas said all of Team Ineos was behind Froome in his recovery.
“It’s scary. It’s never nice to hear, especially when it’s a close friend,” Thomas told BBC Wales.
“It sounds horrific really. It was one of those where he would have had time to actually think; he knew he was about to crash.
“It wasn’t ‘boom’ and you’re on the floor before you know it. It was one of those where you try to save it. That’s the worst.
“It sounds like he was lucky to come away with the damage he’s done really. It could have been a hell of a lot worse.”