Tour de France: Mark Cavendish claims yellow jersey for first time
Eventful first stage sees Alberto Contador suffer injuries in early crash in Northern France
Team Dimension Data rider Mark Cavendish of Britain celebrates after winning the first stage of the Tour de France from Mont Saint-Michel to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. Photograph: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters
Mark Cavendish will wear the Tour de France’s famed yellow jersey for the first time in his career after winning an eventful stage one to Utah Beach on Saturday.
The Manxman outsprinted Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan in a frantic finish to the 188km stage from Mont St Michel to claim the 27th Tour victory of his career, but the first on an opening stage.
Cavendish, 31, is third all-time on the list of Tour stage winners, and is now only one behind Bernard Hinault for second place.
Cavendish, riding for Team Dimension Data, was considered an outsider for victory here.
Etixx-QuickStep’s Kittel beat him to yellow on the opening stages in 2013 and 2014 – with Cavendish crashing in the latter – while Andre Greipel of Lotto Soudal had the better of him in last year’s Tour.
But while those two had powerful leadout trains working for them they failed to get organised in a messy finish.
After a late crash added to the confusion behind, Cavendish blew by world champion Sagan (Tinkoff) and comfortably finished clear of Kittel, his arms aloft as he savoured what is surely one of the most satisfying of his many Tour stage wins.
The yellow jersey was one of the few missing from his extensive collection and could be a good omen at the start of a summer he also hopes will end with a first Olympic medal.
Cavendish said: “I’m so, so happy. I really wanted to win today. The lads were incredible. To see Edvald (Boasson Hagen) do the most incredible turn . . . we didn’t want him to lose any time because he can win tomorrow but he went out of his skin today.
Greipel came home fourth, while there was a top 10 finish for British Tour debutant Daniel McLay of Fortuneo-Vital Concept.
A day for the sprinters, the stage also saw a couple of incidents which could have a big bearing on the general classification battle to come.
Around 80km from home, Tinkoff’s two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador suffered a nasty fall on the exit to a roundabout, and although he soon got back into the peloton the Spaniard needed extensive treatment on his shoulder.
While Chris Froome finished safely in the pack, Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas was among those caught in the late crash.
Almost as soon as the peloton had emerged from the shadow of Mont St Michel at the start of the day the attacks began as Bora-Argon 18’s Paul Voss and Jan Barta leapt clear along with Leigh Howard (IAM Cycling).
Normandy native Anthony Delaplace (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac) moved to join them, but it was Voss who went clear alone to hoover up the day’s King of the Mountains points on the two early climbs and secure the first polka dot jersey of the race.
The break’s lead reached four minutes but soon tumbled as Etixx-QuickStep and Lotto-Soudal upped the pace at the front of the peloton, hoping to create splits in the crosswinds.
The heightened tension may have contributed to what happened next as Contador was caught in a crash on the exit of a roundabout around 80km from home – with Team Sky’s Luke Rowe and BMC’s Brent Bookwalter also hitting the deck.
Contador emerged with some nasty road rash on his shoulder, and had to be helped back before receiving treatment from the race doctor and executing a deft move to change a shoe without stopping.
The increased pace saw the peloton get within 15 seconds of the escapees, but they let them go again and as the gap neared 30 seconds Howes and Delaplace attacked from the break, leaving the others to be swallowed up.
The pair were finally caught on the long straight run to the coast, leaving the sprinters to battle it out on the line.