Chris Froome during the UAE Tour this week
Chris Froome had an indifferent campaign in the ongoing Tour de France, lying in 26th position till he pulled out. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Lourdes, France: Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome pulled out of cycling’s biggest race on Thursday after testing positive for Covid-19.

Froome withdrew from the Tour ahead of Stage 18 from Lourdes to Hautacam in the Pyrenees.

Froome said in a video message he will take a few days off and refocus on competing at the Spanish Vuelta next month.

Froome, who rides for the Israel-Premier Tech team, said he was sad not to reach Paris after achieving his best result since a career-changing crash in 2019 with a third-place finish in the Alpe d’Huez stage last week. The Tour ends on Sunday on the Champs-Elysees.

‘‘I’m really disappointed not to be able to roll into Paris and finish off this Tour de France,’’ Froome said. ‘‘It’s been an extremely special race for us as a team and for me personally as well. I’ve really been finding my legs again.”

Froome was 26th overall, lagging 1 hour, 27 minutes, 14 seconds behind race leader Jonas Vingegaard.

So much has changed for Froome since that training crash during the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine, an event he had been using to fine-tune his bid for a record-equaling fifth Tour title. The accident not only left him with a fractured right femur, a fractured elbow and fractured ribs, it also cost him his spot in Team Ineos’ Tour de France squad the year after.

After getting back to competitive racing, Froome did not return to his previous best level and lost his status as the leader of the British team. After it was announced his contract could not be renewed and that he would be joining the fast-growing Israel Start-Up Nation team, Froome was left out of the Ineos roster for the 2020 Tour because of poor form.

The Kenyan-born cyclist is still very far from the level that helped him secure the Spanish Vuelta (in 2011 and 2017) and the Giro d’Italia (2018) in addition to his four Tour titles.