Continued from page 1

Saxo-Tinkoff tried to pull away with about 3 miles left, but Ian Stannard helped Froome catch them. Moments later, Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen was among the 20-odd riders who were sent flying backwards, upwards and sideways off their bikes. Boasson Hagen was clutching his shoulder when he got back up and his right elbow was bloodied.

“We hope he’ll be able to continue,” Sky team manager Dave Brailsford said.

Then, with the finish in sight, Froome survived a delicate moment when he appeared to be nudged by Tom Veelers.

“I must have hit 10 guys on the run-in today,” Froome said. “I don’t really think too much about it, that’s the way it is.”

A five-man breakaway surged ahead early on. The group consisted of Spanish veteran Juan Antonio Flecha, Italians Francesco Gavazzi and Manuele Mori and Frenchmen Anthony Delaplace and Romain Sicard. They built a lead of about nine minutes after about an hour of racing.

Andy Schleck, the 2010 Tour winner, who had a disappointing time trial Wednesday, had to change his bike after a puncture and scampered back to rejoin the main pack.

As for Froome, his mind was already turning toward Sunday and Mont Ventoux.

“I’m definitely forward looking to road going uphill again,” he said.