Tour de France stage 3: Rodriguez tames the Mur de Huy

Another chaotic day served up plenty of drama, even if some of it made hard watching. In the end the finish was destined to come down to that final-lung busting charge up the Mur de Huy, and Joaquim Rodriguez played it just right. A superb effort by Chris Froome to claim second place moved him into the overall lead by a single second.

Rider of the day

Joaquim Rodriguez had a tough day out yesterday. He punctured once and fell twice injuring elbows, hips and knees. He must have been sore this morning as the peloton rolled out, but Purito has conquered the Mur de Huy once before at Fleche Wallonne in 2012 and he knows this climb like the back of his hand. Knows when to hold, hold, hold and then LAUNCH. Superb work by his team and particularly Luca Paolini left him in an excellent place in the elite group as the gradient steepened. He was able to follow the wheels of Chris Froome on the early part of the climb before launching a stinging attack on the left-hand side of the road and riding clear. I thought Froome would come past him again in the final metres, but the Spaniard was having none of it and held him off to take his second Tour stage win and the polka dot jersey (more on that below).

I wasn’t sure I could win but I accelerated and it felt like it was the longest time I ever spent going up the Mur de Huy.

Three things we noticed

1. Chute. A nervous peloton, on narrow roads, where position at the front is vital usually makes for a high risk of crashes. Unfortunately we witnessed a sickening one today, albeit on a straight piece of road and towards the front of the group. With 58km still to ride, the break about to be caught and approaching the first climb of the day, the peloton was at full speed and riders caught behind had nowhere to go and were catapulted into the wreckage, including race leader Fabian Cancellara (Trek).

The race was neutralised and eventually the riders were stopped at the top of the Côte de Bohissau. The decision was taken because with all the medical staff attending to the injured riders on the ground, they could not provide support to the riders if the race had carried on. It must have been a tough call to make for Tour Director Christian Prudhomme, but it was the right one. William Bonnet (FDJ), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) all had to abandon the race. There will be many riders who are battle-weary and bloodstained and I wonder how many will take the start for the cobbled stage tomorrow. The yellow jersey did finish, some 12 minutes behind.

2. The significance of secondsI often wonder how the race judges adjudicate what is a gap between riders as they stream over the finish line. Today gave me another example to ponder. The clip below shows Froome racing hard to take second place behind Rodriguez, I’d say there was definitely a gap between them, and yet they were adjudged as having the same time.

I have no particular axe to grind here, but with the six-second bonus gained for second place, this put the Sky rider into yellow by one second. A moment of sheer joy for Froome, and heartbreak for Tony Martin of Etixx-Quick Step who found himself missing out on yellow for the second day running. Of equal, if not greater, significance is the fact that Sky now get their support vehicle in pole position for the cobbled stage tomorrow. Who knows how important this might turn out to be?

3. Polka dots are go. With the race heading out of the flatlands and into the hills, today saw the first presentation of the King of the Mountains jersey. This occurrence is greeted with anticipation and trepidation in equal measure here at VeloVoices Towers – will we get the horror of the full-spotted pox a la Pierre Rolland, or an outfit of more taste and refinement? Rodriguez and Katusha kept it the right side of classy in his polka-dotted outing at last year’s Tour – let us hope this trend continues. VeloVoices will of course be sending regular #PoxWatch updates.

Stage 3 result

1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 3:26:54

2. Chris Froome (Sky) same time

3. Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:04

4. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) +0:05

5. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +0:08

General classification

1. Chris Froome (Trek) 7:11:37

2. Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:01

3. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:13

4. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +0:26

5. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) +0:28

6. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:31

7. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:34

8. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:36

9. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +1:03

10. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +1:04

Points leader: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

King of the Mountains leader: Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Team classification: BMC.

Link: Official race website

Featured image: Luca Paolini and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). Race website © ASO

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