Froome takes tour lead
Riders involved in third-stage crash
British rider Chris Froome took the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey after finishing second behind Spanish veteran Joacquim Rodriguez in Monday’s crash-marred third stage, as a second straight day of chaos caused around 20 riders to fall and several to quit.
The 2013 Tour winner Froome almost caught Rodriguez near the top of the day’s final climb, but the Spaniard held on for his second career Tour stage win five years after his first.
“I didn’t expect to be in yellow this early on. Couldn’t be a better feeling,” said Froome, whose title defence ended when he crashed early in last year’s race. “I may look calm on the outside but I assure you I’m not. A huge thank you to my teammates, they turned themselves inside out to keep me at the front.”
He now leads German rider Tony Martin – who is not a threat for overall victory – by one second and is 13 seconds ahead of American rider Tejay Van Garderen, who is shaping up as a dangerous outsider.
More importantly, Froome’s touted main rivals are lagging.
Froome is now 36 seconds clear of two-time champion Alberto Contador of Spain, 1:38 ahead of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and 1:56 ahead of Nairo Quintana of Colombia, the Tour runner-up two years ago.
“I’d rather be in this position that I’m in now rather than having to make up time,” said Froome, who took the race leader’s jersey from Swiss veteran Fabian Cancellara. “I just hope to get through these next few days without any major issues.”
Froome’s relief was understandable, given how heavy the crash behind him was. It happened with a little under 60 kilometres (37 miles) remaining, forcing the stage to be neutralized and then stopped altogether shortly after – for nearly 20 minutes.
With the race moving from neighbouring Netherlands into Belgium, stage three was 159.5 kilometres (99 miles) from Antwerp to Huy. It featured four short and sharp climbs but the crash took place shortly before climb No. 1 when Frenchman William Bonnet’s wobbling bike slid forward and down.
Racing at tremendous speed, it was impossible for those behind to either slow down or get out of the way, and one after the other they went up, down, or sideways in a bewildering flash of colours, bobbing helmets and spinning wheels.
The end result was a tangled mess of bikes, spewed in all directions. Some riders lay on their backs in the grass and others were curled up in agony on the hot tarmac.