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Froome keeps out of trouble to lead Tour de France in Week One

Jerome Pugmire Associated Press

FOUGERES, France – Staying in front has meant staying out of trouble so far for Chris Froome at the Tour de France.

After a crash-marred first week of the race, the 2013 champion is exactly in the position he wants to be – healthy and wearing the yellow jersey.

The British rider’s title defense ended early last year, when he fell three times in two days and, battered and bruised, went out of the Tour on Stage 5. This year, he has avoided all three big crashes so far after making up his mind to push ahead of any potential dangers.

“Given what happened last year, it was a big goal for me mentally rather than physically to arrive with the attitude that I’m here to ride at the front of the race,” Froome said after Friday’s seventh stage. “We’ve been proactive in doing more work than normal in order to try and stay safe.”

Mark Cavendish won a sprint finish Friday for his 26th career Tour stage victory – his first since 2013 after also crashing out last year. He dedicated his win to his Etixx-Quick Step teammate Tony Martin, who broke a collarbone in a crash in Thursday’s sixth stage, forcing him to withdraw while wearing the race leader’s yellow jersey.

Froome inherited the lead, but did not wear the yellow jersey during Stage 7 as a mark of respect for Martin.

With the tough mountain stages still to come – starting with the Pyrenees next week – Froome is in a strong position. He leads two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador by 36 seconds, defending champion Vincenzo Nibali by 1:38 and Nairo Quintana, the 2013 runner-up, by 1:56.

American rider Tejay Van Garderen, a strong climber with a best overall Tour finish of fifth place, is shaping up as a dangerous outsider.

Meanwhile, the race was hit by its first doping case as Italian rider Luca Paolini was thrown out after testing positive for cocaine on July 7.

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