Cav crashes as Kittel wins
Mark Cavendish crashed heavily on the opening stage of the Tour de France as Marcel Kittel sprinted to victory in Harrogate.
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Cavendish was left clutching his right shoulder and grimacing in agony after falling 250m from the finish following a collision with Simon Gerrans.
Cavendish appeared to lean into the Australian as they fought for position and a touch of wheels brought down both riders, plus a clutch of others behind.
Kittel was already ahead at that point and surged past Peter Sagan in the final 100m to ensure he claims both opening-stage honours and the race leader's yellow jersey for the second year in succession.
Back down the road, Cavendish stayed on the ground for several minutes and it was later confirmed that he had dislocated his shoulder. His participation in the rest of the tour now hangs in the balance.
Although Cavendish suffered a nightmare day, fellow Briton Chris Froome made a perfect start to the defence of his Tour title by avoiding the crash and then finishing sixth in the sprint.
The day was also a resounding success for the race in general, with hundreds of thousands of fans lining the 190.5km route through Yorkshire.
An estimated 285,000 people crammed into Leeds to watch the start, thousands more lined the slopes of the climbs of Buttertubs Pass and Grinton Moor, and it was standing room only in a thronging Harrogate town centre for the finish.
Kittel said afterwards: "It was so, so hard up the last little hill until the 1km sign. We rode like in a tunnel it was so unbelievably loud, the fans were cheering. My boys did an amazing job, they rode so, so strong. I felt so motivated, I had good legs today and I’m so, so happy with this win. I still can’t believe it. It’s unreal, it’s so great."
Of Cavendish's crash, Kittel added: "That’s very disappointing. I hope it’s not too bad and hope he gets well soon."
Although the riders set off from Leeds, racing didn't begin until they reached Harewood House 14km later, where Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge cut ribbon to officially get the Tour under way.
Jens Voigt, who at 42 is the oldest rider in the race, formed part of a three-man breakaway, but he later forged clear on his own and opened up a gap of more than five minutes on the main bunch.
Thousands of fans greeted him on Buttertubs Pass and then Grinton Moor, but with no one to share the workload in holding off the peloton, he quickly tired and was caught with 60km to go.
The peloton stayed together right up until the last 1km, when an attack from Fabian Cancellara drew the sprinters out from behind their leadout trains early, and the Swiss rider was consequently soon swallowed back up.
Sagan and Kittel both crested two late climbs at the head of the race, but Cavendish was slightly behind and, in a desperate attempt to regain parity, he collided with Gerrans and saw his hopes of winning in his mother's home town ended.
Stage one result and general classification
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Giant-Shimano, 4:44:07
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, same time
3 Ramunas Navardauskas (Lit) Garmin-Sharp, st
4 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar, st
5 Mick Rogers (Aus) Tinkoff-Saxo, +4secs
6 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st
7 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, st
8 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin, st
9 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar, st
10 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge, st