7 Jul 2015

Crashes mar Tour de France third stage

10:14 am on 7 July 2015

The Tour de France was brought to a halt by a crash involving more than 20 riders including New Zealand's Greg Henderson and leaving several unable to continue.

Chris Froome seized early control of the Tour de France, with the 2013 champion snatching the yellow jersey after two crashes marred the third stage in Belgium won by Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez.

    New Zealand's Greg Henderson was involved in a crash but crossed the finish line.

Greg Henderson was involved in a crash but crossed the finish line Photo: AFP

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.

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

The pile-up was sparked by William Bonnet sliding off, and the Frenchman also abandoned, along with Australia's Simon Gerrans, South African Daryl Impey, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and Dmitry Kozontchuk of Russia.

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.

New Zealand's Greg Henderson was also involved in a crash but was able to continue racing.

Christian Prudhomme, cycling director of ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) pictured as the stage was neutralized after a pile up.

Christian Prudhomme, cycling director of ASO, pictured as the stage was neutralized after a pile up. Photo: AFP

Katusha rider Rodriguez had the best kick up the punishing Mur de Huy, where the Fleche Wallonne classic ends, beating Team Sky's Froome by a narrow margin while France's Alexis Vuillermoz ended up third, four seconds back.

Rodriguez, who won the Fleche Wallonne in 2012, attacked about 400 metres from the line and held off Froome.

"It is very unexpected, I was hoping to be up there today and to put more time on my rivals," Froome told reporters at the end of the 159.5km ride from Antwerp, Belgium.

Chris Froome riding for UCI ProTeam Team Sky.

Chris Froome riding for UCI ProTeam Team Sky. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Overall, Froome leads German Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) by one second with American Tejay van Garderen in third place 13 seconds off the pace after losing 11 seconds on the day.

Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) also lost 11 seconds but they are still in the game 1:56 and 1:38 behind Froome respectively.

Spain's Alberto Contador lost 18 seconds but lies only 36 seconds off the pace before Tuesday's tough fourth stage that features much feared cobbled sectors.

"Froome is very strong, he almost won the stage. There are a lot of days left, we have to stay positive. Tomorrow we'll have to survive," said Contador.

"It's an incredible Tour with every day a lot of stress, a lot of tension, it's very nervous."

New Zealand cyclist Jack Bauer is 13 minutes behind the leader Froome, while Henderson is a further 3 minutes back from Bauer.

New Zealand's Greg Henderson was involved in a crash but crossed the finish line.

Greg Henderson Photo: AFP