Mark Cavendish’s bid for the yellow jersey ended in a heap as the Manxman tumbled to the tarmac in a dramatic conclusion to the opening stage of the 101st Tour de France in Harrogate.
Cavendish was bidding for a 26th Tour stage win of his career in his mother’s home town and a first yellow jersey, but collided with Australian Simon Gerrans in the final 500 metres and was seen clutching his shoulder and midrift as he rolled over the line.
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won the 190.5-kilometre opening stage from Leeds to claim the yellow jersey on the opening day for a second successive year.
Cavendish was aiming to emulate Tom Simpson, Chris Boardman, Sean Yates, David Millar, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome by becoming the seventh Briton to wear the fabled maillot jaune.
He was well-positioned entering the final kilometre before Fabian Cancellara launched a surprise attack.
The sprinters’ teams regrouped, though, and Kittel powered away to the line ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) as Cavendish’s dream ended in tatters.
Kittel won four stages - to Cavendish’s two - in the 2013 Tour and continued his supremacy in the mad dash for the line.
Defending champion Froome (Team Sky) avoided the trouble to place sixth, but will face a sterner test in Sunday’s 201km second stage from York to Sheffield.
After a neutralised ride-out from Leeds to Harewood House, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry gave the Tour a royal send off.
The stage was listed as flat, but it was undulating all day in the rolling Yorkshire countryside.
German Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing), the oldest man in the peloton at 42 and in his 17th Tour, was in the day’s three-man breakaway and distanced Frenchmen Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche Environnemen) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) on the second categorised climb, the Cote de Buttertubs, where crowds were comparable with the Tour’s regular Alpine and Pyrenean haunts.
Voigt held a three-minute advantage with 70km of racing remaining and secured the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey at the final climb of Cote de Grinton Moor before being caught by the peloton with 60km to go.
The sprinters’ teams controlled proceedings in the run-in to Harrogate, jockeying for position at the front of the peloton with 10km to go.
Lotto-Belisol, then Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad, led the way before Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) made a lone bid for victory with one kilometre to go, catching the sprinters’ teams by surprise.
As the road ramped up Cavendish and Gerrans went shoulder to shoulder and fell, with Kittel powering away to claim a fifth Tour stage win of his career.