Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) won stage three of the Tour de France on the Mur de Huy, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) second and into the yellow jersey, to deliver a triumphant end to a stage marred initially by a huge crash.
Froome hit the front on the iconic short, but very steep hill but Rodriguez took up the charge with 400m to go and delivered a knock-out blow to his rivals.
Purito delivered a stunning reminder of his climbing ability to leave his rivals trailing in his wake, with Froome sprinting to second place as the climb eased at the finale to take the yellow jersey by a single second from Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep).
Earlier, a huge crash had marred the stage and cost Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who went down hard but kept racing, the race lead with the rest of his Tour now in severe doubt.
After a steady start to the stage, in which a four-man break was allowed to go clear, the huge crash in the peloton with 60km remaining brought proceedings to a complete halt.
The crash occurred at a time when the peloton had really ramped the pace up, with the gap to the break coming right down until William Bonnet (FDJ) hit the deck at high speed.
Behind Bonnet, a domino effect occurred with riders from many teams involved, tumbling hard with a lamppost taking the brunt of flying bikes and causing a bad pile-up.
Cancellara was one of the highest-profile riders down, while Great Britain’s Simon Yates also hit the deck.
Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin, in the white jersey, was the first rider confirmed as having had to abandon, with Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Bonnet quickly following suit.
— letourdata (@letourdata) July 6, 2015
Such was the severity of the crash, race director Christian Prudhomme was forced to neutralise the peloton before bringing them to a complete halt due to all of the medical support being engaged in treating riders.
The stoppage meant Cancellara could rejoin the group, looking dazed and very uncomfortable, while plenty of riders sported significant road rashes – Johan van Summeren (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Greg Henderson (Lotto-Soudal), Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) among the worst affected.
The race resumed with a neutralised climb of the Cote de Bohissau – meaning the wait for the first KoM points of this year’s race went on – and there seemed a reluctance initially for any new attacks to form.
When the heat was turned up again, however, it was turned up in some manner with Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo snapping the peloton in two thanks to a huge effort on the front as crosswinds struck.
In the front group, stage two winner Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) extended his points classification lead by beating John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) at the intermediate sprint.
Cancellara, still suffering, was caught behind the split, as were Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), but the race came back together again.
The Swiss ace was clearly in discomfort, however, and he was off the back again inside the final 20 kilometres, with the yellow jersey now up for grabs in the front group.
Angelo Tulik (Europcar) made a solo attempt to claim the first mountains points of the race, but the peloton reeled him in – Michael Schar (BMC Racing) taking the honours by default.
Sky joined BMC Racing on the front, and Richie Porte was soon setting a very fast pace as they approached the Cote de Cherave and Mur de Huy.
Tinkoff-Saxo took over the charge, with Michael Rogers claiming some big scalps on the Cherave – Pinot among them – before Majka took over for the run-in to the Huy.
When they hit the Huy, Katusha – through Giampaolo Caruso – hit the front for Rodriguez and, despite Froome taking it up early, it was the diminutive Spaniard who won the stage.
Froome sprinted for second, though, ensuring he was given the same time as Rodriguez and, with it, the yellow jersey by a solitary second from the once again unfortunate Martin.
Tour de France 2015: stage three – result
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha – 3.26.54hrs
2) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
3) Alexis Vuillermoz (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +4″
4) Dan Martin (IRL) – Cannondale-Garmin +5″
5) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +8″
6) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +11″
7) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – ST
8) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE
9) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar
10) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Trek Factory Racing
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 7.11.37hrs
2) Tony Martin (GER) – Etixx-QuickStep +1″
3) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +13″
4) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +26″
5) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +28″
6) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo +31″
7) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep +34″
8) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +36″
9) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +1.03
10) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – Etixx-QuickStep +1.04