HOUSE DEFENDS HIS KING OF THE MOUNTAINS LEAD

Kristian House Rapha Condor Recycling 2008

Kristian House clearly means business as he goes about the task of defending his king of the mountains jersey in the Tour du Loir-et-Cher in France.

The Rapha-Condor-Recycling rider stretched his lead in the competition on Thursday's second stage and news from France is that he's won the first climb of today's third stage too.

House is Rapha's best-placed rider overall too, in 15th place 13 seconds behind the Dutchman Jos Pronk, who won stage one.

Dean Downing, who had been fifth overall, slipped back when he fell in a crash about five kilometres from the finish and lost 52 seconds.

"Matt Rowe did a great job to get him up to the back of the bunch, but the bunch had split into bits," said Rapha's boss John Herety.

"Dean's got cuts and bruises but he's okay and he's carrying on. As for Kristian, he's in the thick of it."

The stage was won by Valentin Iglinskiy of the Ulan team. Pronk of Holland retains the lead.

"It's a great race," added Herety. "I've been here before but I don't recall it being so well organised. It's a good standard of racing and we're right in amongst it. We hope to shake it up a bit in the remaining few stages."

The Tour du Loir-et-Cher finishes on Sunday. After that Rapha head to the Tour of Brittany.

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has been the guest of honour at the race and he's been presenting the prizes on the podium.

Tour du Loir et Cher ? remaining stages

Friday, April 18 Stage 3: Chateau Renault ? Vendome, 175km

Saturday, April 19 Stage 4: Villebarou ? Billy, 192km

Sunday, April 20 Stage 5: Blois ? Blois, 97km

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Tour du Loir-et-Cher stage one

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Tour du Loir-et-Cher stage three

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Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.