Froome relieved to retain Tour lead

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Froome won the Tour in 2013, 2015 and 2016
Tour de France: 1-23 July
Coverage: Live text commentary of every stage on the BBC Sport website. BBC Radio coverage on 5 live sports extra and/or website from 14:30 BST on every stage.

Britain’s Chris Froome said he is relieved to be leading the Tour de France after “probably the most eventful stage” of his career.

Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas crashed out with a fractured collarbone on Sunday and rival Richie Porte fractured a collarbone and his pelvis.

Defending champion Froome, 32, has an 18-second advantage over second-placed Fabio Aru after nine stages.

“It was a relentless pace from the start,” Froome told BBC Sport.

“Crashes, dangerous descents, attacks from all my rivals, mechanical incidents – it just didn’t stop.”

Monday is the race’s first rest day, with stage 10 on Tuesday taking the riders 178km (110.6 miles) from Perigueux to Bergerac.

Thomas, who was second overall before the stage, crashed on the damp descent of the Col de la Biche.

Froome, chasing a fourth Tour title in five years, said: “There was a huge feeling of relief to have kept the yellow jersey, stayed in that front group and to have picked up a few bonus seconds – but a little bit of a downer given that we’ve lost Geraint Thomas, a huge part of the team and our mountain squad.

“Even without Geraint, as he crashed fairly early on, the team is extremely capable. Everyone has upped their game and risen to the challenge of defending the yellow jersey.”

Thomas later joked that he was selling his ripped jersey, with the description: “Only worn once, slight signs of use. Might need a wash.”

Richie Porte was among the favourites to win the Tour

Australian Porte, riding for Team BMC, crashed at high speed descending the Mont du Chat. He received treatment on the road and was taken to ambulance wearing a neck brace.

Froome, a close friend of Porte and a former team-mate at Sky, described the crash as “horrendous”.

“We’ve been in touch,” Froome said. “That’s going to be him out for a while, but I’m just grateful it’s not a lot more serious.

“Soon after that one of my big rivals, Romain Bardet, attacked and the race wasn’t going to let up at that point. The sport is ruthless.”

Irishman Dan Martin, who was brought down in Porte’s crash before ending the day sixth overall, said: “I guess the organisers got what they wanted.”

On an eventful stage, Italian Aru attacked Froome when he suffered a mechanical problem climbing the Mont du Chat.

Britain’s Simon Yates, who is in seventh riding for Orica-Scott, described it as a “dirty move”, but Astana rider Aru, the Italian champion, said: “Honestly, I did not see the moment when Froome had a mechanical problem.”

Froome said: “I’d never try and take advantage of a situation like that to attack the leader of a race when he’s not able to ride his bike.

“Call me old-fashioned but that’s just the way I felt.”

The three-week race finishes in Paris on Sunday, 23 July.

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