Sky rider injured again less than a month after he returned to action following a fractured vertebra.

Ian Stannard abandoned the Tour of Britain today after fracturing his scaphoid in a crash during yesterday’s opening stage in Liverpool.

The 27-year-old Sky rider fell heavily in the final kilometre of Sunday’s race, and was unable to grip his handlebars when he attempted to ride his bike at the team’s hotel this morning.

This latest injury comes less than a month after Stannard returned to racing following a lengthy spell on the sidelines owing to a fractured vertebra he sustained at Ghent-Wevelgem on March 31.

“Ian is really disappointed. He was struggling yesterday, but after the crash his muscles tightened and he was in a lot of pain,” said DS Nicolas Portal. “He tried to ride his bike this morning, but he could not grip his handlebars. He decided himself it was dangerous to continue.”

Stannard’s departure leaves defending champion Bradley Wiggins with just four team-mates, although Portal does not believe this will affect Sky’s chances of taking back-to-back titles in the race.

He said: “Our group here are strong. Ian’s job was to pull on the front of the bunch on the flat,and protect Brad in any crosswind.

“We have Bernie [Eisel] here, who is really strong, and [Ben] Swifty is really strong and is eclectic in what he can do.

“They will share 50 per cent of what Ian would have done, although David [Lopez] and Sebastian [Henao] can help out too.”