How long has Mark Cavendish been gunning for a yellow jersey? He missed out in Corsica, he crashed out in Harrogate, but no one could stop him in Normandy. Coming out from behind the early sprint of Peter Sagan, he took his first maillot jaune.
The KOM jersey was the day's early prize, and Bora-Argon 18 were dead-set on getting it, instigating the breakaway as soon as the flag dropped, with an attack from Jan Bárta and Paul Voß. They were joined by Leigh Howard, and the more unlucky pair of Alex Howes and Anthony Delaplace, who had to chase on, half a minute behind. By the time they had caught up, Voß had attacked Howard and Barta, taken both KOM points available to take the jersey for the day, and was most of the way to being recaptured. The break got to the intermediate sprint, which was won by Howard, and then fractured, with Howes and Delaplace making it the furthest, getting caught by the Etixx train with five kilometres to go.
While crosswinds were always a threat to the peloton, they never really became more than that, with a few skirmishes the extent of all the attacking done during the stage, with a few stagehunters getting dropped when Cannondale went to the front with 87 kilometres to go. One of the far-reaching consequences of the stage happened soon after than,
as a BMC rider knocked Alberto Contador into some road furniture (edit: Contador lost his front wheel and slid out in the corner) , sending him to the ground. A calm response from the Spaniard followed, with all his team but Kreuziger and Sagan coming back to help him, his bike being quickly changed, his shoe being replaced, and a metric ton of bandages being gaffer taped to his arm. He got back to the peloton very quickly, mostly thanks to Fabian Cancellara playing patron and slowing the peloton down. After Contador did get back, he and his team disappeared for most of the day, but he finished the stage, albeit in a group far to the back of a fractured peloton. A quizzing of his team staff yielded the information that his injuries mainly appear to be road rash, with no broken bones. Despite some sleepless nights, he may be expected to recover in time for the mountains, starting on stage seven.
The sprinters trains took over as the break was caught, and coming into Saint-Marie-du-Mont, theEtixx train vied with Dimension Data on the left of the road with Lotto-Soudal on the right. Katusha and LottoNL-Jumbo pushed through with 1.5 kilometres to go, but Dylan Groenewegen was upset by the crash of Michael Mørkøv with only metres to go. Mørkøv wasn't the only victim - Sam Bennett also went down, and crossed the line wearing only the remnants of a cycling jersey, and road rash, holding his arm. This left only nine riders to vie for the stage win, and the sprint was kicked off by Sagan, way too early. Cavendish stayed in his slipstream, while Kittel tried to go around, and that was his mistake as the Manxman timed his kick to perfection, pushing his German rival into second, and going into yellow, surprising many, me included.