CHAMBERY, France (AP) — Chris Froome fiercely defended — and even extended — the overall lead in the Tour de France on an ultra-tough day of high drama and punishing climbs in eastern France’s Jura mountains on Sunday, seeing both his top teammate and one of his top rivals crash out and surviving daredevil descents at speeds exceeding 70 kilometers (45 miles) per hour.
Getting through Sunday’s Stage 9 unscathed, arguably the toughest of this Tour’s 21 stages, marked a crucial step in the three-time champion’s campaign for a fourth win. The last descent of the day with seven climbs saw a terrifying high-speed crash involving Richie Porte, who had been fifth overall but is now out of the race.
Porte missed a left-hand bend, cartwheeled across the road and bowled over another rider, Dan Martin, before slamming into a stony, vine-covered bank. The Australian was first treated by medics as he lay on the tarmac and then taken away, conscious, in an ambulance to hospital.
Also crashing out was Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas, who had held the overall lead for the first four days of the Tour.
Froome placed third in the stage, narrowly beaten in a final sprint by Colombian Rigoberto Uran at the finish in Chambery, in the Alps. French rider Warren Barguil was just millimeters behind in second place — so close that he burst into tears thinking he had won, only to discover moments later that he hadn’t.
Uran thought Barguil had beaten him to the line.
“They told me I had won but I was convinced Warren had won it,” he said.
For his third place, Froome was awarded four bonus seconds that allowed him to consolidate his overall lead. With Thomas, who had been in second place, now out, Italian Fabio Aru climbed to the second spot in the overall rankings — 18 seconds behind Froome overall.
Monday is the race’s first rest day. The Tour returns Tuesday with Stage 10.
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