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Tour de France stage 11: Froome extends lead

Germany's Tony Martin won the time trial on stage 11 of the Tour de France on Wedneday but the big winner may have been Britain's Chris Froome, whose second place finish enabled him to tighten his grip on the yellow jersey.

Tour de France stage 11: Froome extends lead
Chris Froome grimaces during Wednesday's time trial. Photo: Pascaul Guyot/AFP

Tour de France leader Chris Froome tightened his grip on the yellow jersey after finishing second on the 11th stage time trial won by world champion Tony Martin on Wednesday.

Martin had set the early pace for a windswept 33 km course from Avranches to Mont Saint Michel in 36min 29sec but had a nervous wait as Froome threatened to upset his hopes of victory.

In the end Team Sky's leader Froome came home in second place at 12secs adrift but finished more than two minutes ahead of principal rival, two-time champion Alberto Contador of Spain.

"It was a long wait," said Martin, who started 65th from the 182 starters.

Belgium's Tomas De Gendt, of Vacansoleil, was closest to challenge Martin before Froome went but was 1min 01sec slower than the German at the finish line to end up third.

Martin admitted he was surprised to see Froome challenge his mark.

"At the start I was quite sure I would hold on because I had a good lead on Thomas De Gendt. I didn't think Froome would get so close," he added.

As Martin watched nervously from the hot seat, Team Sky leader Froome came home in second place at 12secs adrift.

However the Kenyan-born Briton's effort meant he finished more than two minutes ahead of principal rival, two-time champion Alberto Contador of Spain,
and his compatriot Alejandro Valverde.

Contador, considered Froome's biggest rival ahead of four tough stages in the Alps beginning Sunday, could only finish 15th at 2:15.

He jumped up two places to fourth overall but has gone from being 1:51 behind to 3:54 in arrears.

Fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde began the day at 1:25 behind Froome but despite remaining in second place overall the Movistar team leader is now 3:25 behind Froome

Froome, who won Olympic time trial bronze in London last year, said he had achieved what he set out to do.

"I'm very happy with the time I set. The objective today was to try and take the maximum time possible from my rivals," he said. "I hope to keep it in the next days."

Earlier in the race British rider Mark Cavendish had urine thrown in his face by a spectator.

The incident happened during the 33-kilometre individual time-trial from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, a day after Cavendish was blamed for a collision that sent Argos rider Tom Veelers crashing to the ground in Saint-Malo.

"Probably some spectators were not very pleased with what happened yesterday and they yelled to him and then one other idiot threw urine at him," Omega Pharma team CEO Patrick Lefevere told AFP.

"Mark is not upset, but he is really disappointed because he thinks he didn't deserve this."

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French football clubs in strike threat over 75% tax

France’s top football clubs are threatening to go on strike in protest at the government’s plans to impose a 75 percent tax on them. Ligue 1 and 2 clubs are considering refusing to play fixtures scheduled for the weekend of October 26/27th, it emerged this week.

French football clubs in strike threat over 75% tax
What happens next? PSG's galacticos Zlatan Ibrahimovic (L), Edison Cavani (C) and captain Thiago Silva (R). Will a strike by French clubs overturn a 75-percent tax on salaries? Photo: JS Evrard

The biggest football clubs in France are far from happy with the prospect of having to pay a 75-percent tax on the salaries of their millionaire players, it would seem.

The UCPF (Union of Professional Football Clubs), comprising France’s top two divisions, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, this week threatened to go on strike against the ‘super-tax.’

The union’s executive committee agreed unanimously on Tuesday to protest in some way against the tax rate, which is set to be in force for 2014 and 2015, and therefore applied to earnings for 2013 and 2014.

“Everything is possible, tensions are very high,” Bernard Caïazzo, president of St. Etienne football club told Le Journal Du Dimanche (JDD).

Strike action could even take place as quickly as next weekend, according to sources cited by JDD. A proposal for Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs to boycott fixtures over the weekend of October 26th gained significant support at Tuesday’s meeting.

The UCPF is set to meet on Thursday October 24th to finalize what form their protest will take, with France’s National Assembly scheduled to debate the new tax, beginning next week.

France’s sports minister Velerie Fourneyron confirmed in September that the country’s football clubs will not be exempt from the new 75 percent super tax.

The tax, one of President François Hollande’s flagship election proposals, is included in the government’s 2014 budget, but has not yet been approved by parliament.

Under the proposal, companies will be liable to pay the 75 tax rate for the portion of employees' salaries above €1 million annually.

And despite warnings from France’s football chiefs that the French top flight would be ruined if clubs had to pay the tax, Fourneyron insisted there will be no exceptions to the rule.

“There are no special measures. Football will be affected by the tax on high incomes,” the minister told Le Figaro at the time.

“Why should clubs be exempt from this tax?” she added.

SEE ALSO: France tops European league of millionaires

According to a study cited by Le Parisien on Thursday, French Ligue 1 clubs would be forced to shell out a combined total of €44 million under the 75-percent tax rule, on the million-euro salaries of 115 players and eight managers.

The level of contributions vary widely between clubs, with minnows Ajaccio and Guingamp, who have just one €1-million employee each paying €50,000, to champions Paris Saint-Germain, whose payroll includes 21 millionaires, including manager Laurent Blanc.

Under the planned tax scheme, PSG alone would pay a whopping €20 million extra in taxes.

Sports minister Fourneyron, however, did offer French clubs some comfort when confirming they would be liable to the 75-percent rate, announcing a cap on the tax.

The revenue from tax will be capped at 5 percent of turnover of clubs in order to reflect “the fragile economic model of football clubs”, she said at the time.

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