Team principal also says crash could lead to review of protection of riders including Kevlar clothing

Sir Dave Brailsford believes that Chris Froome will make a return to top-flight cycling rather than retiring in the wake of his horrific crash during a reconnaissance ride for the individual time trial at the Criterium du Dauphiné on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Team Ineos rider, who remains in hospital after sustaining multiple fractures in the high-speed crash, has thanked fans and the wider cycling community for their support.

It will be at least six months before Froome returns to racing, according to the surgeon who operated on him for injuries including an open fracture of the femur, broken elbow and broken ribs.

Asked on BBC 5 Live’s Sportsweek whether Froome might retire, team principal Brailsford said: "It's quite difficult to see that if I'm being honest with you.

"I think he will try and get back. Who knows how this will impact on him, but I don't think it will be the case where he'll just say 'right, I'm satisfied now I'll hang up my wheels and call it a day'.

"I think he's more likely to really work hard in rehab and push himself really hard. He'll take the same approach to that I'm sure as he does to his sport.

"If I was a betting man I'd say yes we'll see him back at some point in the future."

Brailsford believes that the incident may lead both Team Ineos and the wider sport to review rider safety.

He said: "I think when major incidents happen like this it does make you sit back and think about safety.

"It's something we're going to take on board because inherently you have to take risks in this sport to be able to race at the level required.

"There are dangers associated with it and equally we could look very carefully, not just as a team and our riders, but as a sport and see whether [those dangers] could be minimised."

One suggestion he had was that riders could wear protective clothing incorporating Kevlar, the synthetic material already used for personal protection in sports such as motorcycling, fencing and speed skating.

"There are possible advances and let's face it, if the entire sport said everybody has to ride with 'x', then it wouldn't disadvantage anybody because they'd all be doing the same thing," Brailsford explained.

"So it is an opportunity really to reflect and just think about, maybe as Formula 1 has moved forward in the last 10 or 15 years, why shouldn't cycling?"

Meanwhile Froome, who is recovering from surgery at the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, passed on “a huge thank you to everyone who has sent their best wishes to me since the crash.”

The 34-year-old said: “This is obviously a tough time but I have taken a lot of strength from the support over the last three days. The outpouring of support has been really humbling and something I would never have expected.

“I’d also like to extend my gratitude to the Team, especially Doctor Richard Usher and his medical staff, who have been exemplary since the crash.

“In addition, I am so thankful to the emergency services and everyone at Roanne Hospital who assisted and stabilised me, as well as the surgeons, doctors and nurses at the University Hospital of St Etienne, who have really gone above and beyond the call of duty, for which I am ever so grateful. I know how lucky I am to be here today and how much I owe to all the paramedics and medical staff on the race.

“Whilst this is a setback and a major one at that, I am focusing on looking forward. There is a long road to recovery ahead, but that recovery starts now and I am fully focused on returning back to my best.,” he added.

“Finally, I want to thank my wife Michelle and my family. They’ve been with me every step of the way and their love and support will motivate me to return as quickly as possible.”

Froome’s major target this year had been securing a record-equalling fifth Tour de France victory, which would have put him equal with Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

Should he make a comeback and line up for the start of next year’s race in Nice, he would be older than all but two past winners of the race, and older than any rider who has won it since World War 2, with Cadel Evans the oldest post-war winner of the race at 34 years and five months.

The oldest Tour de France winner was the Belgian rider Firmin Lambot, who was 36 years four months when he won the race for the second time in 1922.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.