Alexandre Vinokourov's career appears to have come to a premature end after the Kazakhstan cycling star crashed out of the Tour de France.
Vinokourov, who had been hoping to achieve his dream of pulling on the yellow jersey for the first time in what was to be his eighth and final Tour de France, was among several riders to crash out on the ninth stage.
The spill happened on the descent of the Col du Pas de Peyrol, whose summit was at the 99.5 kilometre mark of the 208 km stage in the hilly Massif Central.
Vinokourov was thrown into the trees at the side of the road and appearing to be suffering a leg injury, he was helped to limp back to the roadside by several teammates and a race doctor who had been travelling behind the peloton.
Race officials later said they suspected Vinokourov had suffered a fractured thighbone (femur).
Earlier this year Vinokourov, 37, had pledged he was racing in his final Tour de France and that he would retire at the end of the season.
He was expected to take over the management of Kazakh-backed outfit Astana.
Vinokourov is considered one of the most attacking and feared riders in the professional peloton, he has twice won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic and has four Tour de France stage wins.