Fears for hospitalised Cavendish as dreams of yellow jersey evaporate
Giant-Shimano rider Marcel Kittel comes through to take the win in Harrogate as home favourite Mark Cavendish suffers injury after falling during sprint finish
Mark Cavendish's dreams of the yellow jersey ended in a heap as the Manxman tumbled to the tarmac and was taken to hospital after a dramatic conclusion to the opening stage of the 101st Tour de France in Harrogate.
Marcel Kittel raced away to take victory but left carnage in his wake with Cavendish sat in the road holding his collar bone around 200 metres from the finish line after colliding with Orica-GreenEdge rider Simon Gerrans.
Cavendish, who had been bidding for his 26th Tour de France stage win, rode gingerly back to the Omega Pharma-QuickStep bus holding his side before being taken away in an ambulance with his wife Peta Todd and children following in a team car.
Kittel, Cavendish's nemesis on last year's Tour, said he hoped his sprint rival can continue despite his injury.
"I feel sorry for him," he said. "It is something that nobody wants to see, especially in front of his home crowd. I wish him all the best and I hope to see him at the start tomorrow."
More than a million fans had turned out to line the route of the 190.5km stage, which began with a long preamble from Leeds to Harewood House before continuing through the Yorkshire Dales and over the Buttertubs climb into Harrogate.
While many had been hoping to see Cavendish become the seventh Briton ever to wear the maillot jaune, the concern now is whether he will be able to continue in the Tour at all.
"He is not in great shape, but I am sure he will be okay," his Australian team-mate Mark Renshaw said. "He is a tough guy and it is not the first crash he has ever had."
Omega Pharma-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevere was less forgiving of his star rider.
"He was very impatient," he said. "He wanted to win. He has already done this sprint 100 times in his head before.
"It's his home tour. He was very focused. Maybe too much. He was so sure to win that he probably made a mistake.
"Gerrans came next to him, slowed down, he wanted to get out, and (Mark) pushed him with his shoulder. Gerrans pushed back and, boom, they crashed."
A victory for Cavendish would have completed a dream day for British cycling fans, with Yorkshire laying on one of the more spectacular Grand Departs of recent years.
Bright sunshine, spectacular scenery and the sort of crowds more usually associated with the high mountain stages combined for the sort of effect organisers would have dreamed of.
"It's an unfortunate way to end what could've been a dream scenario," Cavendish's former boss Sir Dave Brailsford of Team Sky said.
"He's a great champion. He's done an awful lot for his country and we shouldn't forget that.
Cavendish's team had been well positioned entering the final kilometre before Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) launched a surprise attack.
The sprinters' teams regrouped, though, before Cavendish's crash created chaos.
Kittel powered away to the line ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), adding to his four stage wins from the 2013 Tour.
After a neutralised ride-out from Leeds to Harewood House, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry gave the Tour a royal send off.
The stage was listed as flat, but it was undulating all day in the rolling Yorkshire countryside.
German Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing), the oldest man in the peloton at 42 and in his 17th Tour, was in the day's three-man breakaway and distanced Frenchmen Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche Environnemen) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) on the second categorised climb, the Cote de Buttertubs.
Voigt held a three-minute advantage with 70km of racing remaining and secured the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey at the final climb of Cote de Grinton Moor before being caught by the peloton with 60km to go.