The riders behind have nowhere to go and crash into the fallen cyclist at speeds of up to 50kmph before hitting the tarmac

The riders behind have nowhere to go and crash into the fallen cyclist at speeds of up to 50kmph before hitting the tarmac

Froome will wear the race leader?s yellow jersey for a British record 15th day on Tuesday?s fourth stage.

The Team Sky rider, 30, finished just behind Spain?s Joaquim Rodriguez at the end of a stage marred by two crashes that saw the race briefly stopped.

Overnight leader Fabian Cancellara completed the race after falling but later joined five others in abandoning.

Tour de France leader Cancellara lies on his back on a grass verge, grimacing in pain after coming off his bike during the huge collision

Tour de France leader Cancellara lies on his back on a grass verge, grimacing in pain after coming off his bike during the huge collision

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 his yellow bike 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.

Cancellara, who fractured his back earlier in the season, was in obvious pain as the stage resumed 10 minutes later with a neutralised ascent of the first categorised climb of this year?s race.

He sat at the back of the peloton, grimacing, and when racing began he was quickly dropped ? along with several other riders who suffered injuries ? and struggled on the final ascent.

The Mur de Huy is the finishing climb in the one-day Spring Classic La Fleche Wallonne and features gradients approaching 25%.

Rodriguez knows the climb well, having won Fleche Wallonne in 2012, and his experience showed as he surged to victory in the closing 400m of the 1.3km ascent.

Froome, who briefly led on the ascent, was awarded the same finishing time as Rodriguez but, crucially, he 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.

Germany?s Tony Martin is second overall after agonisingly missing out on the yellow jersey for a second day because of the reintroduction of bonus seconds.

Froome?s second-place finish earned him six bonus seconds and he leads Etixx ? Quick-Step rider Martin by one second.

?It?s an amazing feeling to be in the yellow jersey,? said Froome, who had jointly held the British record with Sir Bradley Wiggins.

?I wouldn?t say its too early to take the yellow jersey. I?d definitely rather be in this position than having to make time up on my rivals.?

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford added that being race leader in Tuesday?s potentially precarious cobbled stage would have its advantage.

?It means we?re car number one,? he said, referring to the rule which says the support car of the leading rider will be first in line, meaning if Froome does encounter a problem on the cobbles they can quickly assist him.

Stage two result:

1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 3hrs 26mins 54secs

2 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky same time

3 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R +4secs

4 Daniel Martin (Ire) Cannondale +5secs

5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto +8secs

6 Tejay van Garderen (US) BMC Racing +11secs

7 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana same time

8 Simon Yates (GB) Orica

9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar

10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek

Selected:

12 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff ? Saxo) +18secs

General classification:

1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky 7hrs 11mins 37secs

2 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx ? Quick-Step +1sec

3 Tejay van Garderen (US) BMC Racing +13secs

4 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto +26secs

5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing +28secs

6 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff ? Saxo +31secs

7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx ? Quick-Step +34secs

8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff ? Saxo +36secs

9 Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky +1min 03secs

10 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx ? Quick-Step +1min 04secs

BBC

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