Belgium's Philippe Gilbert celebrates on the podium after receiving a prize for being the stage's most aggressive rider, following the 16th stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, between Carcassonne and Bagneres-de-Luchon, southwestern France, on July 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jeff PACHOUD
Belgium's Philippe Gilbert celebrates on the podium after receiving a prize for being the stage's most aggressive rider, following the 16th stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, between Carcassonne and Bagneres-de-Luchon, southwestern France, on July 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jeff PACHOUD

Terrifying TdF crash: ‘I thought broke everything’

THERE was a collective holding of breath as Phillippe Gilbert was thrown from his bike and flew headfirst over a wall in a terrifying crash on stage 16 of the Tour de France.

Gilbert was 57.2 km from the finish and in the lead of the 218km-long stage on when he negotiated a bend badly and flew headfirst over a wall with no indication of how big the drop waiting for him on the other side was.

Initial indications suggested the Belgian was not badly injured as he gave a thumbs up, collected his bike and continued in his pursuit, however the veteran later emerged from the X-ray truck clearly emotional as he confirmed his campaign was over.

"Yes, my Tour is over.," he said.

Phillippe Gilbert crashes on the tour
Phillippe Gilbert crashes on the tour

"It was not so bad, it was not so deep I think about four meters, but there were a lot of stones, and when I lay there, I thought: 'I broke everything', I did not dare to move at first.

"I've was waiting, but fortunately they were pretty quick, I have a lot of pain and my knee is badly battered, but I think I did not break anything, fortunately."

As Gilbert limped back to his team bus - his left calf heavily strapped - he required help from his team as he burst into tears.

He was then taken to hospital for further tests.

"He has been taken to hospital in Toulouse for further scans," a Quick-Step spokesman said.

The race medical report said the former world champion had suffered "damage to his left knee".

Quick-Step bosses panicked when Gilbert went over the wall -- it was on the same descent, albeit several kilometres below, that Italian Fabio Casartelli died in a horrible crash in 1995.

Negotiating a left-hand bend at speed, Gilbert failed to brake in time, skidded and was sent flying head first over a parapet to land on rocks several metres below.

Television pictures showed officials helping him to climb back out and onto the road, where he jumped gingerly back on his bike to finish the race.