Sir Bradley Wiggins has backed Team Sky colleague Chris Froome to bounce back from his withdrawal from the Tour de France.
Wiggins crashed out of the 2011 Tour with a broken collarbone in the first week before responding to become the race’s first British winner a year later.
Froome, Wiggins’ successor as champion, abandoned the Tour after crashing three times in two days, the pain of his injuries too great for him to continue.
Wiggins, speaking via his agent, said: “It’s a tough day. I never like to see a great racer go down but Chris will be back.
“Today has showed how hard it is to win the Tour de France, but the team will have prepared for this and they’ll deal with it.”
Froome crashed on Tuesday’s fourth stage, injuring his wrist, and fell twice on the cobbled fifth stage from Ypres to Arenberg Porte de Hinaut, which took place in torrential rain, before gingerly stepping into the team car, his race over.
Wiggins was not selected in Team Sky’s nine-man squad for the 2014 Tour, despite announcing his willingness to support Froome’s challenge.
Australian Richie Porte, who sits eighth, one minute 54 seconds behind leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), is now expected to lead Team Sky.
Froome’s fate has led to further debate over Wiggins’ non-selection by Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford.
Three-time winner Greg LeMond had previously expressed his bafflement at Wiggins’ omission.
Eurosport ambassador LeMond said: “It’s unbelievable, it’s shocking and it comes back to those predictions that today was a danger. You have to respect the Tour and the risk.
“I haven’t seen anything in the first days that would have made any difference if Wiggins was included in the team.
“It’s tragic for Chris, for him to not be able to defend his title and have to leave the race in that way must be his worst nightmare - it would have been mine.
“The roads look very slick and to have so many crashes leaves you shell-shocked, fearful and you can only take so much. But it’s a good lesson.
“If he had injured his wrist then it may have put a slight hesitation in his braking, which means you over-brake and in those conditions that is fatal.
“It now really opens the race up to (Alberto) Contador and Nibali. Richie Porte will now take on the main responsibility for Team Sky.
“There is a lot of racing left and the current top 10 will change a great deal, it will take a while yet for things to settle down.”
:: LIVE coverage of every stage of the Tour de France on Eurosport. Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond is Eurosport’s cycling ambassador for the duration of the race. His analysis show “LeMond on Tour” features live pre and post-race analysis from every stage of the Tour.