WWI dead honoured at Tour de France

John Degenkolb won a three-man sprint to conclude the action-packed cobblestoned Stage 9 of the Tour de France on Sunday, while overall contender Richie Porte crashed out of the race and favorite Chris Froome overcame a tumble.

It is a bitter blow for Porte after a broken collarbone in a horrific crash during last year's tour forced him to retire from the race.

His deficit to yellow grew to one minute 42 seconds as Greg Van Avermaet finished second to Degenkolb on the day, two parts of a trio 27 seconds ahead of Froome's group.

But Van Avermaet, who predicted he would lose the yellow jersey before stages Tuesday and Wednesday, cracked on the second of three major climbs Wednesday. "It was a good opportunity and I seized it".

"Everybody said that I was done, after this accident, that I would never come back". When we got closer to the finish I was a bit nervous because of the head wind and I didn't think it was going to happen.

The 25-year-old Groenewegen, who rides for the Dutch Lotto team, flew out of the pack on France's July 14 national holiday to leave Greipel, Gaviria and Sagan trailing in his wake.

The Colombian has been in great form so far and was looking for his third stage win of the race.

This year's crash adds to Porte's rotten luck at the Tour de France.

Frenchman Romain Bardet suffered at least four bike problems, had to change bikes twice and used an enormous amount of energy to somehow limit his time loss to single digits.

"I'm not 100 per cent sure we should be putting cobbled stages in the Tour de France", he said.

A slight brush against Alexander Kristoff saw him sit up, but by then Groenewegen had already gone as the LottoNL-Jumbo rider led home Quick-Step Floors' Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan of Bora-Hansgrohe.

BMC's Porte, among the favourites for overall victory, crashed long before the first cobbled sector, just seven kilometres into the 156.5km stage from Arras.

"It's a shame there were not more French in the escape but what can I do, I kept at it and with 50km to go and only a two minutes lead I knew it was impossible, but I plugged on because of the day", said Grellier.

That challenge will be followed by a rest day on Monday before the race shifts to its first mountain stages in the Alps.

In the General classification, van Avermat has maintained its leadership, its separation from British Geraint Thomas (Sky) was increased to 43 seconds.


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