Chris Froome takes yellow jersey at Tour de France

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The new leader of the Tour de France is a familiar one — three-time champion Chris Froome.

Froome finished third on a Stage 5 summit finish Wednesday, 20 seconds behind stage winner Fabio Aru of Italy and four seconds behind runner-up Dan Martin of Ireland.

Froome made up a seven-second deficit on teammate Geraint Thomas, who was the overall leader going into the three-week stage race’s first mountain day. Thomas, a longtime support rider for Froome, finished 40 seconds behind Aru in 10th place at La Planche de Belles Filles.

Froome now leads Thomas by 12 seconds in the overall standings through five of 21 stages. The goal is to keep the yellow jersey through to Paris on July 23.

“This is going to be the hardest-fought battle [for the Tour title] I’ve ever had,” said Froome, Tour winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Froome attacked Wednesday with one mile left chasing Aru, the 2015 Vuelta a Espana champion who had opened a 20-second lead with a move a half-mile earlier.

Froome was joined by general-classification rivals Richie Porte and Romain Bardet. Contenders Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana fell off, finishing six and 14 seconds behind Froome, respectively.

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The new overall standings:

1. Chris Froome (GBR) — 18:38:59
2. Geraint Thomas (GBR) — +:12
3. Fabio Aru (ITA) — +:14
4. Dan Martin (IRL) — +:25
5. Richie Porte (AUS) — +:39
7. Romain Bardet (FRA) — +:47
8. Alberto Contador (ESP) — +:52
9. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +:54

The peloton caught the last two breakaway riders — Belgians birthday boy Philippe Gilbert and Jan Bakelants — with two and a half miles left.

Wednesday marked the first Tour de France stage in 30 years to start without any rider who had previously won a points classification title.

Peter Sagan, top sprinter at the last five Tours, was disqualified Tuesday after his contact with 2011 green jersey winner Mark Cavendish caused Cavendish to break his shoulder-blade and abandon the Tour.

Thursday’s Stage 6 will be a day for the remaining sprinters. The 134-mile trek from Vesoul to Troyes crosses the River Seine and is straight and flat for the final kilometer. Expect Germans Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel and Frenchman Arnaud Demare to vie for the stage win.

NBC Sports Gold coverage starts at 6 a.m. ET. NBCSN’s coverage starts at 7:30 a.m.

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Richie Porte crashes out of Tour de France again

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Australian Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour de France on the ninth stage for a second straight year, suffering a fractured right clavicle six miles into Sunday’s stage.

“Obviously I’m devastated,” Porte said, according to Team BMC. “For the second year in a row I am ending the Tour de France like this. I was on the ground before I knew it, and straight away felt pain in my right shoulder.”

Porte, who finished fifth in the 2016 Tour de France and was an overall podium contender these last two years, was seen sitting on the side of the road, gritting his teeth and crossing his right arm over his chest.

There was a mass stoppage of riders, with at least one spectator down on the side of the narrow road. The crash came well before the Tour stage was to hit 15 arduous cobblestone sections totaling 13 miles.

Porte was in 10th place after eight stages, 57 seconds behind race leader and BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet. Avermaet and American Tejay van Garderen, in third place, were expected to work for Porte in the mountains later this week, hoping to put him in the yellow jersey.

Now, Van Garderen is in line to be the team leader.

In 2017, Porte fractured his clavicle and pelvis on a ninth-stage crash on a descent and had to abandon the Tour.

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Chris Froome, other stars crash on Tour de France cobblestones stage

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Richie PorteTejay van GarderenRigoberto UranMikel Landa. Even Chris Froome.

Stage nine of the Tour de France promised to rattle the top riders, and the 15 sections of cobblestones totaling 13 miles delivered just that. All of the named men crashed on Sunday, with Porte abandoning the Grand Tour altogether (albeit he crashed before the first cobbles section, six miles into the stage).

In the end, German John Degenkolb got the stage win ahead of overall race leader Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert.

Van Avermaet, the Olympic road race champion from Belgium, retained the yellow jersey for a sixth straight day, extending his lead to 43 seconds over Brit Geraint Thomas. Van Avermaet rides for Team BMC, which lost its team leader in Porte.

American van Garderen presumably became the new team leader, but he crashed later in the stage and also suffered three flat tires.

Van Garderen entered the day third in the overall standings, nine seconds behind Van Avermaet. He ended it in 30th place, 6:05 behind Van Avermaet.

The best-placed favorite to finish on the podium in Paris on July 29 is now the four-time Tour winner Froome, in eighth place, 1:42 behind Van Avermaet. Froome is trying to tie the record of five Tour titles shared by Jacques AnquetilEddy MerckxBernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

The Tour takes its first of two rest days Monday, resuming with the first day in the Alps on Tuesday live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here). Stage 10 features a beyond-category climb and three category-one climbs.

“I’m relieved to get through today and looking forward to getting into the mountains now where the real race for GC (general classification) will start,” Froome said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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