Tour de France 2015: Froome in yellow as Cancellara withdraws

Tour de France crash, 6 July
Riders and bikes are strewn across the roadside following a crash near Brabant Wallon

Britain's Chris Froome leads the Tour de France after finishing second on stage three from Anvers to Mur de Huy.

Froome will wear the race leader's yellow jersey for a British record 15th day on Tuesday's fourth stage.

The Team Sky rider, 30, finished just behind Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez at the end of a stage marred by two crashes that saw the race briefly stopped.

Overnight leader Fabian Cancellara completed the race after falling but later joined five others in abandoning.

The Swiss rider was thrown head-first into a ditch in the first crash and had lost nearly 12 minutes to his rivals by the time he reached the stage finish.

Fabian Cancellara
Cancellara had no way of avoiding the crash that brought down several riders

It was later confirmed he suffered two fractured vertebrae in his lower back after somersaulting over his handlebars as his yellow bike cartwheeled off the road in a spectacular crash about 60km from the finish.

The pile-up was sparked by William Bonnet who slid off and was taken to hospital in a neck brace. According to cyclingnews.com the Frenchman broke a bone in his neck, which will require surgery.

Australia's Simon Gerrans, South African Daryl Impey, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and Dmitry Kozontchuk of Russia, also abandoned the race.

The race was neutralised by race directors, meaning the riders continued at a sedate pace to allow those caught up in the crash to catch up.

However, with all doctors at the race tending the wounded, the race was eventually stopped, around 50km from the finish.

Leading contenders (time behind race leader)
1st: Chris Froome (Sky) 7hrs 11mins 37secs
8th: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +36secs
13th: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +1min 38secs
17th: Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +1min 56secs

Cancellara, who fractured his back earlier in the season, was in obvious pain as the stage resumed 10 minutes later with a neutralised ascent of the first categorised climb of this year's race.

He sat at the back of the peloton, grimacing, and when racing began he was quickly dropped - along with several other riders who suffered injuries - and struggled on the final ascent.

The Mur de Huy is the finishing climb in the one-day Spring Classic La Fleche Wallonne and features gradients approaching 25%.

Analysis - BBC Sport's Matt Slater
"With most attention on the potential for mayhem in Sunday's ride along Zeeland's coast and the cobbles of Tuesday, a flat, straight road in rural Belgium on Monday was supposed to be a means of just getting from A to B. Fast. Sadly, for half a dozen riders and counting it turned out to be a fast route to A&E. Four abandoned immediately, two more made it to the finish before quitting. Stopping the race temporarily was an unusual step, but it was also a compassionate and sensible one."

Rodriguez knows the climb well, having won Fleche Wallonne in 2012, and his experience showed as he surged to victory in the closing 400m of the 1.3km ascent.

Froome, who briefly led on the ascent, was awarded the same finishing time as Rodriguez but, crucially, he finished 11 seconds clear of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and 2013 runner-up Nairo Quintana, while two-time winner Alberto Contador was a further seven seconds adrift.

Geraint Thomas's stage-by-stage guide
Stage four: Seraing - Cambrai, 223.5km (138.8 miles)
"Last year Team Sky didn't have the best of days on the cobbles, when Froome was forced to abandon, but personally I did pretty well. It's definitely a stressful day, but I enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to it again. It's certainly a big day for the teams with riders competing for the overall victory. It's all about fighting for position for when most of the cobbled sections start in the final 50km or so."
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas's analysis of all 21 stages.

Germany's Tony Martin is second overall after agonisingly missing out on the yellow jersey for a second day because of the reintroduction of bonus seconds.

Froome's second-place finish earned him six bonus seconds and he leads Etixx - Quick-Step rider Martin by one second.

"It's an amazing feeling to be in the yellow jersey," said Froome, who had jointly held the British record with Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Tour de France crash, 6 July
The race was eventually stopped, around 50km from the finish

"I wouldn't say its too early to take the yellow jersey. I'd definitely rather be in this position than having to make time up on my rivals."

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford added that being race leader in Tuesday's potentially precarious cobbled stage would have its advantage.

"It means we're car number one," he said, referring to the rule which says the support car of the leading rider will be first in line, meaning if Froome does encounter a problem on the cobbles they can quickly assist him.

Rob Hayles - BBC Radio 5 live commentator
"That is a big victory for Froome. What an extraordinary finish. He may not have won the stage but he put time on his rivals and has the yellow jersey. Will Team Sky want it this early on? Well, they've got it and they've got a lot of work to do now to defend it."
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William Bonnet
Bonnet was the first rider to go down and that created a domino effect behind him
New Zealand's Greg Henderson
New Zealand's Greg Henderson was also involved in a crash but was able to continue racing
Tour de France riders
The race was stopped at the bottom of a climb to allow doctors to treat the injured

Stage two result:

1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 3hrs 26mins 54secs

2 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky same time

3 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R +4secs

4 Daniel Martin (Ire) Cannondale +5secs

5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto +8secs

6 Tejay van Garderen (US) BMC Racing +11secs

7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana same time

8 Simon Yates (GB) Orica

9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar

10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek

Selected:

12 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff - Saxo) +18secs

General classification:

1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky 7hrs 11mins 37secs

2 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step +1sec

3 Tejay van Garderen (US) BMC Racing +13secs

4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto +26secs

5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing +28secs

6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff - Saxo +31secs

7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step +34secs

8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff - Saxo +36secs

9 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky +1min 03secs

10 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step +1min 04secs

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