Lausanne - Six days after losing Chris Froome for the Tour de France, Team Ineos were holding their breath Tuesday over Geraint Thomas's shoulder as he was rushed to hospital for tests after crashing out heavily at the Tour de Suisse.
The accident happened 30km from home on stage four with reigning Tour de France champion Thomas in a good position for overall victory in the nine-day Tour warm up in the Alps, but was left ashen-faced, dazed, badly grazed and nursing his right shoulder.
Ineos said that Thomas "has been forced to abandon the #TourDeSuisse. He was alert and speaking to the team after the crash and will be taken to hospital for checks".
Ineos later reported that Thomas had "abrasions to his shoulder and a cut above his right eye," which were visible as he gazed into space sat on the road where he fell.
"He was part of a two-man crash," Ineos said after it appeared Thomas was brought down by Astana's Andrey Zeits.
"There was a lot of road furniture about and a rider crashed in front of Geraint," Ineos sports director Gabriel Rasch said.
"He got a little cut over his eyebrow which was bleeding. The doctor felt it was safest to take him to the hospital for further checks.
"We'll have to wait until they check him properly and then we'll know more."
Rasch suggested the tough as teak champion had wanted to get back in the saddle.
"I think all riders are the same. They want to go back to the bike and race. But thankfully we have a doctor in the car and it's his decision to make."
Ineos described Thomas as clearly disappointed, but said he "was quickly sat up and speaking to team and race medical personnel at the roadside".
Thomas, a highly popular Tour de France winner in 2018, came down heavily in the peloton's high-pace pursuit of an escape.
Medics swiftly removed the 33-year-old's helmet and gingerly examined the road rash on his back and gently manipulated his shoulder before making a decision to take him to hospital.
Even if the Welshman has not fractured his collarbone, the crash will severely hinder his chances of reaching peak fitness for a defence of his title starting on July 6.
The incident comes less than a week after his Ineos teammate, four-time Tour de France champion Froome broke a leg, hip, elbow and ribs in a horrific fall in the Criterium du Dauphine.
Froome, 34, was airlifted to hospital in Saint-Etienne for emergency surgery after slamming into a wall at high speed during practice last Wednesday ahead of the fourth stage of the race in central France.
Tuesday's stage on the Tour de Suisse was won by Italian Elia Viviani of Deceuninck-Quick Step, who outsprinted Aussie Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan, who held on to the yellow jersey.
Ineos still have Colombian protege Egan Bernal in the running for victory here, he showed true class when winning Paris-Nice in March, and the 22-year-old all rounder is the bookies favourite for victory in France this July.
Bernal himself had been slated to take part in the Giro d'Italia, but broke a collarbone while training in early May.
The Tour de Suisse continues until Sunday with three crunch mountainous stages and an individual time-trial still on the menu.