HARROGATE, ENGLAND // Mark Cavendish’s dreams of the yellow jersey ended in a heap as the British rider tumbled to the tarmac and suffered a dislocated collarbone after a dramatic conclusion to the opening stage of the 101st Tour de France in Harrogate.
Cavendish, who was hoping to win the 190.5-kilometre first stage from Leeds to Harrogate, where his mother was born, 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.
Germany’s Marcel Kittel raced away to take victory, but he left carnage in his wake with Cavendish sitting in the road while holding his collar bone about 200 metres from the finish line, along with several other riders.
Cavendish, who had been bidding for his 26th Tour de France stage win, was visibly in pain, cradling his arm in his lap and grimacing as he rode to the finish line one-handed before being taken away in an ambulance, with his wife Peta Todd and their children following in a team car.
Tour organisers released a brief medical bulletin stating he had suffered a “trauma” to his “right shoulder” before stipulating that “X-rays and an ultrasound” had shown he had an “acromioclavicular separation”.
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.”
Omega Pharma-QuickStep team boss Patrick Lefevere had earlier said Cavendish would carry on racing as long as there was no break.
He was also critical of his star rider.
“He was very impatient,” Lefevre 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 and slowed down. He wanted to get out and [Mark] pushed him with his shoulder. Gerrans pushed him back and, boom, they crashed.”
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.
In the final sprint, Cavendish could be seen leaning into Gerrans as he seemed to be sandwiched between two riders and was trying to find space.
As he went down, Gerrans crashed, too, and the pair took down two or three other riders.
Gerrans, whose jersey was ripped to shreds, said he would need to see the incident again.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened just yet. I’ll obviously be watching the replay when I get back to the hotel. I think it will be replayed over a few times,” the Australian said.
“I think it’s pretty unfortunate to get tangled up in a crash that close to the finish.
“I won’t be going off to hospital, I’m going to be a little bit stiff and sore tomorrow and I’ve lost a little bit of skin, but I think I’m all still in one piece.”
Although Lefevere suggested that Cavendish felt Gerrans was partly to blame for the crash, Belgian rider Sep Vanmarcke laid responsibility squarely at Cavendish’s door.
He wrote on Twitter: “This could have been my best sprint ever. Was in Kittel’s wheel last km, but because of that crazy move of Cav I couldn’t sprint! #TourdeSep.”
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.
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