Tour de France: Chris Froome takes lead as Joaquim Rodriguez wins
Former leader Fabian Cancellara involved in huge stage three crash
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 11/10/15 12:35pm
Chris Froome moved into the yellow jersey at the Tour de France by finishing second behind Joaquim Rodriguez on a third stage marred by a huge crash involving previous leader Fabian Cancellara.
Rodriguez (Katusha) powered clear of the field on the short but steep final climb of the Mur de Huy but Froome (Team Sky) stuck with the Spaniard brilliantly to cross the line just a couple of metres behind on the same time.
He also dropped all of his main rivals for overall victory, with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finishing 11 seconds down in seventh and ninth respectively and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) finishing 18 seconds back in 12th.
Froome picked up six bonus seconds for his fine display, which were enough to take him to the top of the general classification and open up gaps of 36 seconds over Contador, 1min 38sec over Nibali and 1min 56sec over Quintana.
Tony Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) is one second down on Froome in second place overall after finishing 40 seconds back in 26th, while Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) is 13 seconds adrift in third having crossed the line just in front of Nibali in sixth.
Cancellara lost almost 12 minutes and later abandoned after being one of around 15 riders involved in a frightening pile-up that, together with another crash just moments later, caused the race to be temporarily halted to allow medics to attend to the injured.
Froome said: “I definitely didn’t wake up today thinking I was going to be in yellow by this evening. That was a real surprise. I knew there would be gaps up on that final climb but I really didn’t expect it to be that significant, to be able to get into yellow.”
Rodriguez added: “We started at the bottom of the Mur de Huy all of us with a tough pace and I wasn’t sure that I could win, but I realised I had a chance and accelerated and it felt it was the longest time I have ever spent going up the Mur de Huy. It was a really tough stage.”
The stage had been mundane up until William Bonnet (FDJ.fr) crashed with about 55km to go and brought down swathes of riders behind him while the peloton was riding at full speed.
Cancellara could not have been in a worse place and was catapulted over his handlebars, while some were sickeningly sent flying into a lamppost and others down a ditch.
So many riders were involved in the initial pile-up and then a subsequent smaller crash that all of the race’s medics had to attend the two incidents, meaning there were none available further up the road. Race organisers consequently took the decision to first neutralise the stage and then stop the riders altogether until the medics had been freed up.
With racing back under way after a 15-minute delay, Team Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo set a fierce pace for the remainder of the day that whittled the peloton down to around 50 riders leading on to the Mur de Huy, the feared climb made famous by the Fleche Wallonne classic that is only 1.3km in length but rears up to a brutal 19 per cent in gradient.
Froome took up the pace-setting with about 700m to go and when Rodriguez attacked with about 500m left, it looked like the Briton would be swallowed up by the other short-climb specialists.
However, he instead kept pulling away from the rest of the field and even came close at the end to overhauling Rodriguez, who was nonetheless a deserving winner following a well-timed surge.
The Tour continues on Tuesday with a potentially hazardous 223.5km fourth stage from Seraing to Cambrai containing 13.3km of cobbled roads. Find out more in our Tour guide here.
Stage three result
1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, 3:26:54
2 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, same time
3 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +4secs
4 Dan Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin, +5
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, +8
6 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, +11
7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, st
8 Simon Yates (GB) Orica-GreenEdge, st
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing, st
12 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, +18
1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 7h 11min 37secs
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step, +1sec
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, +13
4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal, +26
5 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, +28
6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo, +31
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step, +34
8 Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, +36
9 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky, +1:03
10 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx – Quick-Step, +1:04
12 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +1:38
17 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +1:56