Kittel wins first stage as Cavendish crashes

Sat Jul 5, 2014 12:53pm EDT
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HARROGATE England (Reuters) - German Marcel Kittel powered to victory in the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday while Britain's Mark Cavendish crashed heavily in the final straight.

Kittel, who also won the first stage last year, took the overall leader's yellow jersey after easily outsprinting Slovakian Peter Sagan and Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas.

"It was so hard," said the Giant Shimano rider. "The hill in the last kilometer made it very difficult to win. There were so many people that we rode the finale like in a tunnel with a terrible noise.

"It's unbelievable I've won stage one again. I had good legs today and my guys did an excellent job. I feel sorry for Mark Cavendish and I wish him all the best."

Cavendish, cycling in his mother's home town of Harrogate, seemed too eager to succeed in the closing stages and collided with Australian Simon Gerrans with both riders taking a tumble.

After being helped by the race doctor Cavendish crossed the finish line with his right arm folded and clearly in pain.

The former world champion stayed for around 10-15 minutes in his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team bus before leaving in an ambulance.

"Simon is not to blame," Orica GreenEdge sports director Matt White told reporters.

With huge crowds lining the mild ascents, the opening stage was a massive success as the Tour made its return to Britain seven years after London staged the Grand Depart.   Continued...

Giant-Shimano team rider Marcel Kittel of Germany celebrates as he wins the first 190.5 km stage of  the Tour de France cycling race from Leeds to Harrogate, July 5, 2014.   REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen