Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez has won Stage 3 of the Tour de France on the Mur de Huy, with Team Sky’s Chris Froome second to gain time on his rivals for the overall and move into the yellow jersey – but the big talking point today was a massive crash that put several riders out of the race and forced it to be neutralised temporarily.
The suspension of racing came as medical support personnel struggled to deal with the aftermath of that crash on a straight stretch of road some 60 kilometres from the finish, with both the helicopters that serve them attending the scene too.
It happened after Fdj.fr’s William Bonnet, riding towards the front of the peloton on the right hand side, touched wheels with the rider in front of him. He came down very heavily and was forced to abandon as were Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge and Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara of Trek Factory Racing tried to avoid the tangle of bikes and bodies in front of him, taking to the verge, but was sent over his handlebars and hit the ground with some force, his bike somersaulting past him, and it briefly seemed he would be unable to resume the race.
Riders from teams including Sky, Astana and Movistar, which had all seemed to emerge from the crash unscathed, were seen urging race director Christian Prudhomme to allow the stage to continue unimpeded, although once the reason for the neutralisation became clear, they can have little cause for complaint.
Inevitably, the disruption changed the complexion of the stage, with the peloton taking time to get back up to speed after racing resumed with 50 kilometres remaining.
A succession of climbs before the final test of the Mur de Huy, the iconic climb that concludes the Fleche Wallonne each April, thinned out the front group which numbered no more than 40 riders as they entered the final kilometre.
Inside the final 500 metres, Team Sky’s Chris Froome led the bunch with Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador on his wheel, but it was Rodriguez – winner of Fleche Wallonne in 2012 – who came to the front and rode off to victory, despite being injured when he crashed yesterday.
Froome finished second to gain further time on his rivals as well as picking up bonus seconds with Vuillermoz of AG2R-La Mondiale third.
He takes the yellow jersey by just 1 second from Etixx-Quick Step's Tony Martin, denied the overall lead, just as he was yesterday, by a rival taking bonus seconds, reintroduced this year, on the line.
Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez, winning his second career Tour de France stage
Yesterday was a bad day because I had worked so much and the puncture and crashes have ruined everything, it was sad. But today's win is great. It's the fruit of a phenomenal teamwork. I'm very happy. It's a fantastic mental booster for all of us.
When I saw the 400 metres to go mark, I wasn't even thinking. In the last Flèche Wallonne, I got boxed in and I couldn't attack. I didn't want this to happen again. I'm not surprised that Froome and Contador couldn't follow me because this finale suits me at perfection. I'm a very explosive rider. I know this finale very well too.
A 400 metres long effort is exactly my favourite distance. At some stage, I even asked Caruso to slow down so I could breathe a bit before the climb. I knew I could win but it's true that in the last 100 metres I was pedalling with my ears. A victory like today's is a kind of unforgettable event.
I put a stage win at the Tour ahead of a win at the Flèche Wallonne. Everything done at the Tour is like a storm.
Chris Froome of Team Sky, back in yellow for the first time since winning the race in 2013
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.
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.
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.
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 pavé the same way as in the first few days. We start from zero every single stage until we reach the mountains.
I definitely wouldn't say that I'm the strongest, it's too early for saying that. We've seen so many changes already since the beginning of the Tour.
Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador who was 12th today and now lies 8th overall, 36 seconds behind Froome
Froome is very strong. He nearly won the stage today. But there are still many days of racing. You must stay positive. The yellow jersey gives you confidence, you tell yourself you're well but it also gives pressure and responsibilities. Still I would love to hold it,” he said.
Tomorrow on the cobbles, it will be a matter of survival. It's an incredible Tour with a lot of stress, tensions and nerves every day. Every year the stress is stronger and you leave a lot of energy. We must be very careful, anything can happen.
Fabian Cancellara of Trek Factory Racing, who lost the yellow jersey
My back doesn’t feel good, and for sure it’s a big disappointment. I expected to defend yellow today, not lying on the ground at 80km/h. One day you win, one day you lose. Like this, is for sure not nice.
[The crash] was on a slight downhill, and I saw the crash happening on the right side and I was hoping I could sneak between the riders in the field, but there was a drainage gutter and in the end I got hit from the back, and hit this drain thing and I don’t even know what happened after that.
But thank you to the race organisation to neutralise it. When you see so many people on the ground … it was the right thing to do.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.