Froome claims Tour’s yellow jersey

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Published: Monday 6th July 2015 by The News Editor

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Chris Froome showed his strength – and took the race leader’s yellow jersey – with second place on a stage three of the Tour de France marred by a high-speed crash.

The 159.5-kilometres third stage from Antwerp to the Mur de Huy was stopped for around 10 minutes due to a lack of medical cover after a huge 50kph crash involving leader Fabian Cancellara (Trek) caused chaos around 80km from the finish.

The 1.3km finishing ascent was still to come and 2013 champion Froome (Team Sky) took to the front with 500m to go, followed by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).

Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) shadowed Rodriguez’s surge and Froome followed too before finishing second to the Spaniard.

It meant Froome gained more valuable seconds over his main rivals for the race victory in Paris on July 26, with Contador, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) all trailing the Briton.

Cancellara lost the yellow jersey, which was assumed by Froome, just two road stages into the 21-stage race.

It was anything but a straightforward day as FDJ rider William Bonnet crossed wheels and tumbled over his handlebars.

A domino effect followed, with numerous riders crashing to the Tarmac and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha) joining Frenchman Bonnet in abandoning the race.

Confusion followed as race director Christian Prudhomme first neutralised the race, then Team Sky took to the front as racing was waved on.

Next Prudhomme appeared through his sunroof once again, neutralising before stopping the race, as all the race medics were occupied treating the wounded.

There was a 10-minute delay and the ascent of the Tour’s first categorised climb, the category four Cote de Bhissau, was neutralised, with racing beginning again when the peloton crested the summit.

Nibali’s Astana squad and Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team forced a small fracture in the peloton, which Froome’s Team Sky closed.

Another opened up, with Cancellara caught the wrong side.

He was not the only one struggling, but the frenetic pace relented and the peloton converged once more.

Positioning was all important coming into the concluding 1.3km ascent of the Mur de Huy and the jostling began apace up the penultimate climb, the Cote de Cherave.

Froome, using his elbows as a shield, navigated through to the front of the bunch and showed his form to surge into the maillot jaune.

It was another ideal day for Froome and Team Sky. After profiting from splits in the peloton to gain one minute 28 seconds on Nibali and Quintana on Sunday’s second stage, he gained 11secs on the pair on Monday and 18secs on Contador.

Tuesday’s 223.5km cobbled stage from Seraing to Cambrai presents a different challenge for Froome, but at least now he has a head-start.

Froome paid tribute to his team-mates for helping him to avoid the crash, saying on Eurosport: “A huge thank you to my team-mates today – they just turned themselves inside out to keep me always at the front of the race.

“Today was treacherous, lots of crashes again.

“I just couldn’t be happier to be in yellow going into the cobbled stage tomorrow.”

As for whether he can hold on to the lead until Paris, Froome added: “I’m not banking on anything at this point but I’d rather be in this position that I’m in now rather than having to make up time on yellow, so I’m really happy with the standings and just hope to get through these next few days without any major issues.”

Race winner Rodriguez admitted the ascent up the Mur de Huy was one of his most challenging climbs.

“I wasn’t sure that I could win but I realised that I had a chance and I accelerated and it felt as if it was the longest ever time I’ve spent going up the Mur de Huey,” he said. “It was a really, really tough stage.

“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the following stages because now I have lost my fear.”

Published: Monday 6th July 2015 by The News Editor

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