Quintana, Valverde now 1'50" behind new TDF leader Froome (SKY) after taking 9th, 11th in Mur de Huy following horrific crash
“It was a really hard day, complicated by everything: the stop, the crashes, the splits into the bunch… just crazy." That was Alejandro Valverde's short summary to the third stage of the 2015 Tour de France -159.5km from Antwerpen to the Mur de Huy (3ª)-, once again overshadowed by crashes.
A brutal pile-up inside 60km to go, which left four riders out of the competition -including Tom Dumoulin (TGA), 3rd in the overall standings- and also hurt race leader Fabian Cancellara (TFR), forced the bunch to stop for several minutes before the race was relaunched into the Côte de Bohissau (Cat-4), where some brief crosswinds split the peloton into three echelons.
While Nairo Quintana was riding into the first one, Valverde, stuck into the third, had to jump on a solo move to close the gap and get back to the front before the decisive three climbs. The Colombian and the Spaniard, supported by Gorka Izagirre and Jonathan Castroviejo, got well through the first two ascents but eventually struggled against a powerful Joaquim Rodríguez (KAT). The Catalan won in front of new 'maillot jaune' holder Chris Froome (SKY), with Nairo (9th) and ‘Bala’ (11th) finishing 11” back.
The new GC leaves the two references from the Movistar Team almost two minutes behind the leader -Valverde (16th), 1’51” adrift; Quintana (17th), 1’56” in arrears- in the eve of another feared day in this year's Grande Boucle, with six cobblestone sections in the last fourty kilometers of a long stage four, en route to Cambrai (223.5km.)