Chris Froome's Tour de France hopes took a blow on Sunday as chief lieutenant Geraint Thomas crashed out.

Thomas was second overall at the start of the day, just 12 seconds behind reigning champion and his Sky team leader Froome.

But just under halfway through the mountainous 181.5km ninth stage from Nantua to Chambery, Thomas crashed hard on a fast and wet descent.

He bravely tried to soldier on but soon climbed off his bike with a suspected broken collarbone, his bloodied right side showing the damage from his fall.

It was the fourth time already in just over a week that Thomas had crashed during this Tour.

He also went down in the second, fourth and eighth stages.

It's the second Grand Tour this year that Thomas has crashed out of having had to leave the Giro d'Italia in May as well.

And yet the Tour had started so well for the 31-year-old Briton, who won the opening stage time-trial, his first ever Tour stage victory, and held the yellow jersey for four days before giving it up to Froome on Wednesday's fifth stage.

Thomas's absence means Froome losses an important team-mate for the remaining two weeks of the Tour.