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Saturday 10 December 2016

Cycling: Early gains my Froome and Contador on rivals

Tinkoff-Saxo rider Alberto Contador of Spain cycles during the 13.8 km (8.57 miles) individual time-trial first stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race in Utrecht, Netherlands, July 4, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Tinkoff-Saxo rider Alberto Contador of Spain cycles during the 13.8 km (8.57 miles) individual time-trial first stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race in Utrecht, Netherlands, July 4, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

One year after crashing out of the race, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador were back in control of the Tour de France, hurting their main rivals in a hectic second stage won by German Andre Greipel yesterday.

Crosswinds and crashes caused several splits as the peloton made its way through heavy rain on a 166-kilometre ride from Utrecht, with Froome and Contador ending up in a small leading group that also included American Tejay van Garderen as they finished one minute 28 seconds ahead of the main pack.

In that pack was defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, Colombian Nairo Quintana and France’s Thibaut Pinot, who could only limit the damage after being trapped behind on a stage that went along the North Sea.

Greipel was the fastest in the finishing straight, outsprinting Slovakian Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara (pictured), with the Swiss taking the overall leader’s yellow jersey from Australia’s Rohan Dennis. Pre-stage favourite Mark Cavendish of Britain could only manage a disappointing fourth place. Briton Froome, the 2013 Tour champion, crashed out of the Tour on the fifth stage last year, while Spain’s Contador, who is attempting a rare Giro d’Italia/Tour double, abandoned his 2014 race after breaking his shinbone in a crash.

“This a huge advantage for us to sit in this position after one flat day out on the road,” Team Sky rider Froome said. “This is a three-week race and things do change on a daily basis. We’re ahead today but who knows what’s in store for us for the rest of the week,”

Contador, of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, said: “There are days like this when you’re very happy to have team mates like mine.”

Froome is 10th overall, 48 seconds behind Cancellara, who is wearing the yellow jersey for the first time since 2012, while Contador sits in 14th place one minute off the pace. Daniel Martin (Team Cannondale-Garmin) was best of the Irish riders yesterday, finishing 40th, 1 min 28 sec behind Greipel, in the pack, leaving him 57th in the general classification, plus 2’ 43’’. Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) was 66th on the same time and is 85th overall (plus 3’ 14’’).

Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) is 105th overall after finishing 93rd yesterday, 4’ 39’’ behind the stage winner. He is 5’ 39’’ off Cancellara.

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