Tour de France - Cavendish crashes as Kittel wins in Yorkshire

Home favourite Mark Cavendish crashed in a frantic finale to the opening stage of the Tour de France in Harrogate, won by Germany's Marcel Kittel.

Eurosport
Tour de France - Cavendish crashes as Kittel wins in Yorkshire
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Etappensieg für Top-Sprinter Marcel Kittel

Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprinter Cavendish clashed with Australian Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) as both riders came down hard in the final 200 metres of the 190.5km stage from Leeds.

Cheered on by the fans of his mother's home town, Cavendish crossed the finish line clutching his shoulder, in tears and wincing in pain. It was feared that the 29-year-old Manxman had broken his collarbone.

Victory in the Tour's opening stage went once again to Giant-Shimano's Marcel Kittel who outsprinted Slovakia's Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Lithuania's Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) to take the race's first yellow jersey just as he did one year ago in Corsica.

"I'm very, very happy. It's a very emotional win because there was a lot of pressure for me to be first again today," said Kittel.

French youngster Bryan Coquard (Europcar) took fourth place in his debut Tour while the British crowds did have something to celebrate with defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) crossing the line for a well-fought sixth place after a slightly uphill conclusion to a frantic opening stage.

Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara - perhaps irked at the lack of traditional opening prologue time trial - attacked just before the final kilometre, the Trek Factory Racing rider opening up a small lead on the first of two ramps to the line.

Closing fast on Cancellara the main sprinters were jostling for position as Cavendish and Gerrans came shoulder-to-shoulder resulting in a heavy fall that also took out France's Jerome Simon (Cofidis). Cavendish appeared to be at fault after apparently leaning his head towards his opponent in quite an aggressive fashion.

The carnage behind, Kittel powered clear to outsprint last year's green jersey Sagan, who took second place with a wry grin as he crossed the line. Navardauskas - the man who kept Britain's David Millar out of Garmin's nine-man team for the Tour - took a surprise third place as Coquard joined the big boys with a fast finish after almost coming to grief in the incident that felled Cavendish.

HIGHLIGHTS

Tour de Yorkshire's Royal start: An estimated 230,000 fans lined the streets of Leeds as the riders rolled out for the unofficial start of the race under bright blue skies. After a slow 13.5km neutral zone the peloton arrived at the Grade I listed stately home of Harewood House where they received a royal blessing.

Prince William and his wife Catherine – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – were joined by Prince Harry (“top drawer aristocracy,” according to Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby) in shaking hands with the likes of Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Mark Cavendish as a brass band played the National Anthem and the Red Arrows flew over trailing red, white and blue smoke.

[ROYAL TREATMENT AS LE TOUR BEGINS IN YORKSHIRE]

After almost an hour’s worth of pomp and ceremony, what was surely the longest neutral zone in the history of the Tour came to a close when the Duchess of Cambridge – wearing the race’s first green jersey – cut the yellow ribbon and announced the 2014 Tour de France officially open. A further 2km neutral ride followed as the peloton left the grounds of Harewood House before race director Christian Prudhomme – flanked by Welcome to Yorkshire’s Gary Verity in fetching mustard yellow trousers – waved the flag and got the race under way.

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Three-man break: Frenchmen Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) attacked from the outset and were joined by the oldest rider in the race, Germany’s Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing). The trio quickly built up a lead of three minutes as the race rolled over the picturesque Yorkshire Dales before Voigt was momentarily distanced on the Cat.4 Cote de Cray. Jarrier picked up the solitary point over the first categorised climb of the day with the peloton trailing at 3:30.

Man of the day: The obvious answer is Marcel Kittel, who once again showed the world that he is now the rider for whom the oft-bandied moniker "the fastest man on two wheels" should really be reserved.

But special mention must go to evergreen Jens Voigt who rode into the polka dot jersey with a typically bullish display on the bike, using all his experience to outfox fellow escapees Edet and Jarrier. Having been distanced in the first climb, Voigt made amends by attacking at the subsequent intermediate sprint at Newbiggin. But the 42-year-old wasn’t interested in the sprint and continued his attack to reduce the role of his French counterparts to mere “potato hunting” on live TV.

Voigt held a three minute advantage going over the Buttertubs Pass, with Jarrier and then Edet swallowed up by the pack as thousands of spectators lined the roads in scenes reminiscent of lofty Alpine peaks rather than a lowly Cat.3 ascent in the north of England. His face a picture of pain, Voigt crested the summit of the third and final climb of Gritton Moor with just 35 seconds over the pack – but with the king of the mountains lead assured.

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Biggest loser: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Chris Horner (Lampre) all suffered a scare after being caught out in a split in the peloton on the Gritton Moor climb. But as the race regrouped they all managed to fight back on. We all know that the answer to this is Cavendish, whose chances of winning on the streets of London on Monday look remote after he was taken to hospital following his fall.

Spare a thought, too, for Simon Gerrans, who was not at fault for the clash and whose Tour started with a wholly unnecessary high-speed spill and enough road rash across his back and hind quarters to ensure he'll be sleeping on his front for the next week.

COMING UP

Sunday’s relentlessly up-and-down 201km stage from York to Sheffield has been described as a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege – and it certainly has all the hallmarks of a classic. Nine categorised climbs in the Peak District and Pennines along the way – including the evocatively named Blubberhouses climb, the iconic Holme Moss and a 33% schlep up Jenkin Road near the finish – will whittle down the pack and perhaps see some of the GC men lose valuable time. You can discount the pure sprinters – while he who wins should almost certainly take the yellow jersey from Kittel.

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PLAT DU JOUR

Being a Sunday then how could we overlook a traditional roast leg of lamb with Yorkshire pudding – or as they call it in Yorkshire, pudding. Let’s follow up with some Yorkshire Blue cheese – renamed by local Harrogate company Shepherds Purse as 'Le Yorkshire Bleu' in celebration of the Tour’s Grand Depart. Washed down by a limited edition 'King o’t’ Mountains Blonde' ale from Wharfedale Brewery.

STAGE ONE IN A SENTENCE

Cavendish bites the dust on a day veteran Voigt shines and Kittel underlines his dominance.

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