National champion Simon Gerrans crashed in the sprint finish of the Tour de France’s opening stage after being headbutted by Mark Cavendish but the Australian is still hoping to win the second stage into Sheffield.
Orica-GreenEDGE rider Gerrans was in a great position at the front of the bunch with just 250m to go when British star Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) squeezed him into Frenchman Bryan Coquard (Europcar).
Gerrans and Cavendish locked elbows before both fell heavily.
The opening stage into Harrogate was taken out by German powerhouse Marcel Kittel meaning the Giant-Shimano rider will wear the race leader’s yellow jersey on Sunday.
Gerran’s teammate Matt Goss, who wasn’t selected for the Tour, was quick to blame Cavendish for Saturday’s high-speed crash.
“I’m pretty sure @Mark_Renshaw got kicked out of the tour a few years back for a headbutt that was a lot less than that of Cav’s,” Goss tweeted.
But he added he didn’t want to see the Brit kicked out of the race.
Renshaw, from NSW, was controversially thrown off the 2010 race for headbutting Kiwi Julian Dean.
Gerrans said Saturday’s crash was “unfortunate” but he would need to see the incident again to be sure of what happened.
“It was really too bad because I was up for the win,” he said.
“I haven’t seen the images of the sprint so I couldn’t tell 100 per cent what was happening but obviously I went from being perfectly placed to hitting the ground really hard.”
Gerrans didn’t need to go to hospital but will be stiff and sore on Sunday. He lost a lot of skin and was left badly bruised.
Gerrans was considered an outside chance of winning Saturday’s stage but the punchy rider was one of the favourites for Sunday’s run into Sheffield.
It features an 800m climb, averaging almost 11 per cent, just 5km from the finish.
“We worked really hard to prepare for the stage tomorrow and I am definitely still really up for it,” the Australian said.
Cavendish had been aiming for a 26th Tour stage win in his mother’s home town of Harrogate.
Instead, the Manxman was taken to hospital where he was told he’d dislocated his collarbone.
Team director Patrick Lefevere had earlier said if nothing was broken Cavendish would continue.
Lefevere said his rider had been desperate to win.
“He told me that Simon Gerrans slowed down and he really wanted to get out and he pushed and Gerrans pushed back and that’s how he crashed.
“It was so important for him.”
Renshaw has this year been reunited with Cavendish as his lead-out man at OPQS.
“He’s not in great shape (but) I’m sure it will be okay,” Renshaw told ITV4, “He’s a tough guy and it’s not the first crash he’s ever had so hopefully both him and Simon are all right.”