Chris Froome zooms to the front as others go boom

Chris Froome showed his strength – and took the race leader’s yellow jersey – with second place on a Stage 3 of the Tour de France marred by a high-speed crash.

Race leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland receives assistance as he lies on the ground after a fall during the 159.5-kilometre third stage yesterday. Eric Gaillard / Reuters
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Chris Froome showed his strength on Monday – and took the race leader’s yellow jersey – with second place on a Stage 3 of the Tour de France marred by a high-speed crash.

The 159.5-kilometre third stage from Antwerp to the Mur de Huy was stopped for around 10 minutes due to a lack of medical cover after a 50kph crash involving leader Fabian Cancellara of the Trek team 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 valuable time over his rivals for the race victory, with Contador, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) trailing the Briton.

Cancellara lost the yellow jersey just two road stages into the 21-stage race.

It was anything but a routine day as FDJ rider William Bonnet crossed wheels and tumbled over his handlebars. A domino effect followed, with several riders crashing to the Tarmac, and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha) joining 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 once again, neutralising before stopping the race, as all the race medics were occupied treating the injured. 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 starting again when the peloton crested the summit.

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

Another opened up, with Cancellara caught on the wrong side.

He was not the only struggler, but the fast pace relented and the peloton converged again.

Positioning was important coming into the final 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, moved through to the front of the bunch and showed his form to take the overall lead.

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 yesterday and 18secs on Contador.

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

Froome paid tribute to his teammates for helping him to avoid the crash, saying: “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.”

Asked if 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.”

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