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Froome stays in control after action-packed ninth stage

The defending champion escaped unscathed after an action-packed ninth stage of the Tour de France as one his main rivals crashed out of the race.

FILE: Chris Froome (C). Picture: @LeTour/Twitter

CHAMBERY - Chris Froome escaped unscathed after an action-packed ninth stage of the Tour de France as one his main rivals and his Team Sky lieutenant crashed out of the race on Sunday.

The defending champion, who was attacked by Fabio Aru just as he suffered a mechanical on the last climb, ended up third at the end of an 181-5km trek in the Jura mountains won by Colombian Rigoberto Uran ahead of France’s Warren Barguil.

Froome had his rivals to thank, however, as none of them took turns in front while he was changing his bike in the lung-busting ascent to the Mont du Chat.

"I had a mechanical problem with my gears, I had to change bike," said three-times champion Froome.

"I want to thank the other riders, who did not attack," he added, saying he did not see Aru attacking past him as he raised his arms to ask for assistance.

He was already without teammate Geraint Thomas, who abandoned after crashing in the slippery descent of the Col de la Biche, one of three out-of-category ascents of the day.

In the final descent to Chambery, Australian Richie Porte, regarded as Froome’s main challenger ahead of the three-week event, went off the road into a wall of rocks.

"He was conscious, it’s reassuring, he is being transferred to the hospital," race doctor Florence Pommery said.

Last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet of France pedalled away in the final descent but was reined in by Froome, Uran, Barguil, Aru and his Astana team-mate Jakob Fuglsang two km from the finish line.

"There will be other great battles to fight in the Pyrenees and the Alps," said Bardet.

Overall, Froome leads Aru by 18 seconds and Bardet by 51 as two-times winner Alberto Contador of Spain cracked on the last climb and dropped out of contention.

Uran is fourth, 55 seconds off the pace while Astana look set to work as a double act from now on as Dane Fuglsang is fifth, 1:37 behind Froome.

Three-times podium finisher Nairo Quintana of Colombia also struggled, losing 1:15 to Froome and his group. He is now eighth overall, a massive 2:13 off the pace.

Monday is a rest day and the fight for the overall title is set to resume next Thursday with the first big Pyrenean stage.

In-form Porte, however, will not be conTesting it after a high-speed crash ruined his chances, with the Australian taking down Ireland’s Dan Martin with him.

Quick-Step Floors’ Martin got back on his bike but crashed again before limiting the damage on the line. He is now sixth overall, 1:44 behind Froome.