A stage that began with a minute's silence in memory of Wouter Weylandt, who died after colliding with a wall on a rapid descent on stage three of last year's Giro d'Italia, ended with another high-speed crash in the final 150m yesterday.
The mass pile-up saw a battered and bruised world champion Mark Cavendish sling his broken bike over his shoulder and carry it towards the finishing line after several riders, including race leader Taylor Phinney, were brought down by Italian sprinter Roberto Ferrari.
"Cav was well positioned to contest the sprint until Ferrari veered across him and took away his front wheel," said Team Sky's Steven de Jongh afterwards. "He lost a lot of skin but was able to pick himself up and complete the stage."
Cavendish had been moving up fast on the outside of the peloton when Ferrari switched across the road, taking the Manxman's front wheel from under him and causing the massive spill.
Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini) reacted quickly to bunny hop the prone Sky rider at 60kph but at least 10 others hit the deck behind him.
Phinney remained on the ground for a long time after Aussie Matt Goss had claimed the new Orica GreenEdge team's first Grand Tour stage win, and the young American looked to be out of the race when he ended the stage in the race ambulance.
UCI rules requiring riders who crash to finish under their own power and with their bike have recently been relaxed for fallers inside the final 3km, and Phinney later mounted the podium to retain his leader's pink jersey.
"When I was on the ground I was a bit confused and in a state of shock," Phinney said. "I must have hit something when I fell. It's a pity that it happened and hopefully it's nothing important. But I started to feel better when I was in the ambulance. It's lucky tomorrow is a rest day."
Ferrari was eventually relegated to last place on the stage, but Cavendish wants the Italian thrown off the race altogether.
"Apparently Roberto Ferrari has said to journalists, when asked about the crash, that he can't see what happens behind him and doesn't care," said Cavendish. "Is his team, or the UCI, going to do the right thing? Other riders, including myself, have been sent home for much less."
With the race switching from Denmark to Italy tomorrow, both Phinney and Cavendish will have time to asses wounds and recover for stage four.
At home, Adam Armstrong took his second overall victory at the Tour of Ulster when he finished second on stage four behind Ryan Sherlock of the Iverk Produce team from Carrick-On-Suir.
Armstrong's Eurocycles team's textbook tactics paid off as race leader Matt Higgins and his Node4 Girodana squad spent much of the day chasing down a breakaway by Eurocycles second-placed rider overall Conor Murphy and Greg Swinand of Usher IRC.
As Murphy and Swinand were reeled in on the final lap in Dungannon, Armstrong jumped clear with Sherlock and the duo built up a race-winning advantage of four and a half minutes.
Sherlock, second overall at Ras Mumhan, continued his good run of form with stage victory as 2010 winner Armstrong, who had begun the day 15 seconds ahead of Sherlock, soaked up his triumph.