Kittel wins Tour opening stage again

Mark Cavendish crashed badly in the sprint finish as Marcel Kittel won the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday to take the race leader’s yellow jersey.


Cavendish appeared to be in pole position for a chaotic final sprint until he made contact with Australian champion Simon Gerrans and both came crashing down.

The 29-year-old Briton, who was hoping to win the 190.5km first stage from Leeds to Harrogate, where his mother was born, came down hard on his shoulder.

He was taken to hospital where scans and x-rays confirmed a dislocation of the collarbone.

His OPQS team manager Patrick Lefevere had earlier said he would carry on racing as long as there was no break.

“Mark had lived this sprint in his mind at least 100 times before. He was so focused, he wanted to win so badly,” said Lefevere.

Kittel, who also won last year’s opening stage, said: “I feel sorry for Mark Cavendish and I wish him all the best.

“It was so hard. The hill in the last kilometre made it very difficult to win. There were so many people that we rode the finale like in a tunnel with a terrible noise. It’s unbelievable that I win stage one again.”

Slovak three-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan finished second with Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania third.

Such was the hectic nature of the sprint that Tour favourite and reigning champion Chris Froome, not known for his acceleration on the flat, came in sixth, expertly avoiding the trouble.

His main rival, Spaniard two-time previous winner Alberto Contador said it was a relief to get through.

“It was a very nervous day, I’m happy not to have suffered any accidents and to have overcome the stage,” said the 31-year-old Tinkoff-Saxo rider.

German Kittel confirmed his status as top sprinter following four sprint stage victories last year at the Grand Boucle.

Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, presided over an official opening ceremony to the greatest bike race in the world at Harewood House just outside Leeds.

Prince Harry was also there as the Red Arrows flew overhead and a band played the French and British national anthems before the Duchess cut the official ribbon to give the ceremonial start.

Once the actual stage started 3km further down the road, three riders attacked and formed the breakaway of the day.

The oldest man in the peloton, 42-year-old German Jens Voigt was among them but, after being easily outsprinted by French escape companions Benoit Jarrier and Nicolas Edet on the first categorised climb, the Trek rider decided to go it alone.

He broke away just before the single intermediate sprint of the day with still 113km to ride.

At one point with, around 100km left, he had a lead of over five minutes on the peloton.

Voigt, who was equalling the all-time record of 17 Tour appearances, had no delusions about winning the stage but wanted merely to crest the next two categorised climbs ahead of the rest to ensure he would wear this Tour’s first polkadot jersey for the king of the mountains.

Sunday’s hilly 201km second stage is from York to Sheffield.