Froome takes tour lead

Riders in­volved in third-stage crash

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY JEROME PUGMIRE

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.

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