L'Alpe d'Huez - Former champion Vincenzo Nibali was ruled out of the Tour de France on Thursday after fracturing his back in a collision, allegedly with a police motorbike, during the 12th stage to Alpe d'Huez, his Bahrain team doctor said.
Nibali, who claimed his sole yellow jersey in 2014, was transported to hospital with a suspected vertebra fracture after coming down hard following the collision.
Bahrain later confirmed he had fractured the "tenth vertebra in his back" and would not start Friday's 13th stage from Bourg d'Oisans to Valence because of "difficulty breathing".
Nibali was chasing on a narrow stretch of the road lined with thousands of enthusiastic fans when he suddenly came crashing down four kilometres before the summit of the legendary climb.
Despite being helped back on his bike, and valiantly finishing only 13secs behind stage winner Geraint Thomas of Team Sky, the crash ended Nibali's bid to stay in contention on the race, which he leaves after climbing to fourth overall at 2:37 behind the British race leader.
Before being taken to hospital in Grenoble, the Italian blamed a police motorbike for his spill.
"At that point the road narrowed, there were two police motorbikes closeby," he said.
"(Chris) Froome accelerated, I followed him. Suddenly, it slowed down in front of me, and I hit the deck.
"I was feeling good, I really believed in my chances. It's a pity. But these kinds of things can happen when there's a lot of people on the road."
Thomas said: "I was on his (Nibali) wheel, but I didn't see if he hit a spectator. I rode over his back wheel and managed to get back on (to the race)."
The Nibali incident caused a significant backlash on social media, many fans claiming the Italian should have been given the same time as the early finishers because the crash was not his fault.