Tour de France Stage 1: Cavendish Crashes as Kittel Wins

Doug Pensinger

Whenever the Tour de France begins with a road stage instead of a prologue or time trial, the fighting between sprinters to be the first to wear the maillot jaune is exceedingly intense. It's not often that masters of the bunch gallop have an opportunity to wear the leader's jersey in the biggest race of the year, so when it comes, the fighting is intense. While this can lead to thrilling and hotly contested sprints, the raised stakes of such a sprint can lead to risk-taking and crashes. This was evident today as Mark Cavendish rubbed shoulders with Simon Gerrans in the final 200 meters of the stage today and sent both riders tumbling to the tarmac.

The first stage of the Tour saw countless fans on the sides of the narrow and winding Yorkshire roads. With a bunch sprint practically guaranteed, it didn't take long for an enterprising trio of riders to jump clear and provide the fans someone to cheer on. The breakaway du jour was composed of Nicholas Edet (Cofidis), Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne - Seche Environment), and Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing). Voigt, ever the antagonist, got antsy with some 100 kilometers remaining and jumped away from his companions on a doomed mission, but one that would net him the climber's jersey at the end of the day.

Behind, Lotto-Belisol, Giant-Shimano, and Omega Pharma - Quickstep chipped in to help set pace and gradually reeled Voigt back with an hour of racing remaining. Behind Voigt, the narrow and constantly up and down roads had made work hard for riders in the peloton, splitting the bunch several times in the last two hours, but never decisively.

Mark Cavendish's Omega Pharma teammates took to the front in the final five kilometers, hoping to deliver their British sprinter to the line first and give him the yellow jersey in his home country, but challenges from Cofidis and then Giant Shimano emerged inside the final 1.5 kilometers as the road tilted up, down, and finally up again towards the line. Trek's Fabian Cancellara attacked hard on the penultimate rise and pried a few seconds lead out of the leadout trains in the final kilometer, but the final gradual rise to the line was his undoing and he was caught inside 300 meters. As the sprint began and spread across the road, it was Peter Sagan and Kittel who launched on the right side of the road while Cavendish was boxed in over to the left. Cavendish tried to go through a gap that was simply too small and tangled with Orica - GreenEDGE's Simon Gerrans, taking the two down as Kittel powered around Sagan to win convincingly by a bike length. The win was the second time Kittel has won the opening stage of the Tour and was his fifth stage victory in his career. Behind, the hilly finale witnessed an unusual composition of the top results with both overall contender Chris Froome and Tinkoff - Saxo domestique deluxe Michael Rogers making it into the top ten.

Kittel and Sagan are tied for lead of the points jersey, but Bryan Coquard will be wearing it tomorrow thanks to Kittel wearing the Yellow and Sagan in the lead of the young riders' classification.

Stage Results:

  1. Marcel Kittel (Giant - Shimano)
  2. Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
  3. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp)
  4. Bryan Coquard (Europcar)
  5. Michael Rogers (Tinkoff - Saxo)
  6. Christopher Froome (Sky)
  7. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
  8. Sep Vanmarke (Garmin-Sharp)
  9. José Joaquim Rojas (Movistar)
  10. Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEDGE)
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