• Chris Froome back in the yellow jersey for the first time since 2013 (AAP)Source: AAP
Stage 3 of the Tour de France produced another crash marred classic result with Joaquim Rodriguez taking the stage in Huy ahead of Chris Froome who rode himself into the race lead.
Cycling Central

7 Jul 2015 - 1:58 AM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2015 - 5:46 AM

The stage was marred by a crash after a touch of wheels caused a ripple effect through the peloton and took down scores of riders which prompted organisers to halt then restart the race.

The incident claimed a host of casualties, among them race leader Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who continued on but in difficulty, while Australia’s Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE), William Bonnet (FDJ.fr), Dmitriy Kozonchuk (Katusha) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) were forced to abandon.

Rodriguez (Katusha) launched his move to pass a leading Froome (Sky) with 400 metres to go and held his pace to narrowly finish ahead of the 2013 champion. Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R) finished third at four seconds.

The battle on Huy also changed the general classification with Froome replacing a slowed Fabian Cancellara at the head of the race. Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) sits a single second back while Tejay van Garderen (BMC) is well positioned for later battles at 13 seconds.

"I think the Mur de Huy is typically the climb for punchy types of climbers. That's why it's been a great performance by Purito. I expected it and I was marking him," Froome said.

"The climb doesn't suit me really so it's a surprise to come here in second place and gain some time over the other GC contenders. I couldn't be happier. It's an amazing feeling to be back in yellow after the disappointment I had last year."

Starting in Antwerp, the 159.5km stage ended up atop the Mur de Huy, the finish of the Flèche Wallonne one-day classic, a 1.3km long climb with an average gradient of 9.6 per cent and a maximum of 19 per cent.

Futile though it was, Bryan Nauleau (Europcar), Serge Pauwels (MTN-Qhubeka), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18) and Martin Elmiger (IAM) set out on a four man break which touched on a lead of four minutes before the wind back began.

However, just as the catch was about to be made a massive high speed crash halted the race with less than 60km to go.

After a 20 minute delay called by the organisers to give the teams and riders time to assess and treat their injuries, the race gingerly restarted at the top of the Côte de Bohisseau with its most difficult phase on the horizon.

Approximately 40 riders hit the Mur de Huy together but Froome and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) made the first key accelerations before Rodriguez attacked. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) tried to match the pair but could not hold a wheel.

Froome gained more valuable seconds over the predicted general classification contenders ahead of the Stage 4 cobbled sections. Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finished 11 seconds behind the new leader, while Contador lost 18 seconds.

"I didn't expect to lead the race so early. I don't know how much we can read the race through a one-kilometre long climb but it's a good position to be in. It's better than having to make up time on my rivals," Froome said.

"The yellow jersey isn't a burden. It's a great place to be in ahead of the cobblestones. It'll elevate the whole team. I'll approach the pavés the same way as in the first few days."

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