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MAN OF STRAW; TOUR DE FRANCE Unlucky Thomas crashes again as Froome holds on to yellow jersey.

Byline: Mike Walters in Station des Rousses

GERAINT THOMAS has gone from yellow fever to hay fever after he suffered his third crash in this year's Tour de France and landed in a haystack.

Lucky Thomas, who held the race leader's iconic jersey after the first stage, overcooked a tight bend on a rapid descent in the steamy Jura here and went over the handlebars after hitting the barriers.

But Team Sky's indestructible Welsh wingman managed to climb back in the saddle after his third accident in eight days because he landed in some bales of hay.

Brutal And as Chris Froome preserved his lead ahead of today's monster stage featuring four brutal climbs, Thomas was happy to emerge in one piece from his latest spillage.

Thomas, the early race leader after his triumph in last weekend's time trial prologue in Dusseldorf, was involved in two pile-ups in the yellow jersey.

He also hit a telegraph pole on stage 16 two years ago, crashed out of the Olympic road race in Rio last summer and had to abandon the Giro d'Italia two months ago after colliding with a badly-parked police motorbike.

But Thomas is from the Dai hard school of knocks, and after his roll in the hay he admitted this latest prang was his fault, saying: "I had just gone back for bottles and got back to the front when I went into a corner a bit too hot.

"I was looking to my side and the boys were breaking, then there was a splitsecond delay and we hit the gravel. "It was a choice between going into the trees or the hay bales, so I chose the hay. I front-flipped, but it was a better option than the woods."

Va Va Froome also went off-road with Thomas in the same incident, but managed to stay in the saddle.

Scary He said: "It's another reminder of how quickly things can change - one minute you are in control and the next you are in the ditch with your team-mate over the barriers lying next to you.

"It's pretty scary. You can't foresee a corner that twists back on itself a bit more than you expected."

Froome expects the general classification to be blown wide open on today's long haul from Nantua to Chambery, adding: "It's going to be a monster stage, especially as there will be some tired legs after the fast pace today.

"I expect the last climb, up the Mont du Chat, to be the decisive climb of the Tour and there will be some big gaps opening up between the general classification contenders."

Despite cramp with three miles to go, French rider Lilian Calmejane (left) held on to win the eighth stage.

Belgian Robert Gesink's attempt to close him down fell short by 37 seconds, while Froome, second-placed Thomas and their main general classification rivals rolled home together.

CAPTION(S):

HAY MAKER Thomas hit a bale but still packs a punch in the peloton

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jul 9, 2017
Words:497
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