Chris Froome ensured he laid an early marker down in this year’s Tour de France after he claimed the yellow jersey on a drama-filled stage three.
Despite two crashes along the 159.5km stage, Froome rode clear of his main rivals on the punishing finishing ascent of Mur de Huy to finish second in Belgium behind Spain’s Joaquim Rodriguez.
It was not just the finish which demonstrated Froome’s excellent form, with the 2013 champion never out of the front positions as the race moved from Holland to Belgium.
And in crossing the line in the same second as the stage winner, the Team Sky rider picked up an additional four bonus seconds to narrowly edge out Tony Martin by a second and claim the yellow jersey overnight.
“I definitely didn’t wake up today thinking I was going to be in yellow by this evening. That was a real surprise,” said Froome.
“I knew there would be gaps up on that final climb but I really didn’t expect it to be that significant to get into yellow.
“A huge thank you to my teammates, they just turned themselves inside out to keep me at the front of the race.
“Today was treacherous, lots of crashes. I just couldn’t be happier to be in yellow going into the cobbled stage.”
Such was the serious nature of the crashes – which saw overnight leader Fabian Cancellara thrown head-first into a ditch in the first incident around 60km from the finish and lose nearly 12 minutes – the race was temporarily stopped.
Froome eventually 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.
Orica-GreenEdge rider Simon Yates was the next best British finisher behind Froome in eighth, with the same time as Nibali, while Geraint Thomas is the second best British rider overall in ninth.
The race hits the cobbles tomorrow for stage four and Froome was more than content with being in yellow early on.
“Every day now something massive has happened on each stage, there’s been a lot time differences. I’m not banking on anything at this point,” he added
“For sure I’d rather be in the position that I’m in now than having to make up time on yellow. I’m really happy with the standings how they are, I just hope to get through these next few days without any major issues.”
© Sportsbeat 2015