14 Jul 2016

NZ rider crashes as Froome retains lead

7:11 am on 14 July 2016

New Zealand cyclist George Bennett suffered a nasty fall during the 11th stage of the Tour de France, as British cyclist Chris Froome extended his overall lead.

New Zealand cyclist George Bennett

New Zealand cyclist George Bennett Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 26-year-old and another rider crashed early on the stage after touching wheels, with Bennett going "over the bars" and into a ditch on the side of the road.

The crash caused a traffic jam as the peloton tried to make their way around the fallen riders.

Bennett got up after his fall, duting himself off before getting back on his bike to finish the stage.

He crossed the line more than five minutes behind leader Chris Froome.

Froome showed again he will attack his rivals on every terrain as he extended his overall lead with a surprising move in today's 11th stage, which was won with panache by world champion Peter Sagan.

Chris Froome (middle) Tour de France winner 2015.

Chris Froome (middle). Photo: Photosport

Team Sky's Froome, along with his lieutenant Geraint Thomas, jumped into the wheel of Sagan when the Slovak broke away from the bunch 12km from the finish with his Tinkoff team mate Maciej Bodnar of Poland.

The four built an advantage of about 20 seconds until the sprinters' teams started their effort, but they could not catch the late fugitives.

Sagan, already a stage winner in Cherbourg, outsprinted Froome to take the day's laurels and deliver an almost final blow to Mark Cavendish in the green jersey race after the Briton was left behind in the finale because of a mechanical problem.

"I won a stage that was made for the pure sprinters. It was a crazy day," Sagan said.

Sagan, Froome and Bodnar finished six seconds ahead of the pack, which means the defending Tour champion extended his lead by 12 seconds as he collected six bonus seconds for his second place ahead of tomorrow's much-feared 12th stage which ends up Mont Ventoux.

"This is bike racing at its best," said Froome.

"I feel like I'm enjoying it, I'm not feeling I'm being forced into this because of pressure."

Froome had already taken his opponents by surprise when he attacked on the final descent of the eighth stage last Sunday.

He now leads fellow Briton Adam Yates (Orica-Bike Exchange) by 28 seconds and Ireland's Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) by 31 while last year's runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar) of Colombia lies fourth 35 seconds off the pace.

"It was a stage for the sprint and wind specialists. Froome took advantage of this and gained a few seconds but I want to remain positive, I did not crash," said Quintana, who believes the conditions were too risky.

"Organisers want a show but they should think about the safety of the riders. We risk our lives every day, especially in these stages."

Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez, tipped as a potential podium finisher, ended up 1:09 adrift of Sagan after being trapped behind following a bunch split on a windy day.

Sagan tried to offer the victory to his team mate Bodnar as a reward for his efforts but Froome accelerated again as the finish line loomed and he was therefore forced to sprint ahead of the Briton.

"He's like the grandson of Eddy Merckx, he's a genius, he's having fun on the bike. He's the most impressive rider of the past two, three decades," FDJ manager Marc Madiot said of Sagan.