Mark Cavendish was denied a chance of victory after being caught up in a remarkable and dramatic first stage of this year’s Tour de France on Saturday afternoon.
The Manx Missile had gone into the day’s stage in Corsica as one of the favourites for victory in Bastia and thus to wear the yellow jersey for the first time in his career.
However, in an amazing turn of events, first the team bus of Orica Green-EDGE somehow managed to get stuck at the finish line after becoming lodged underneath the timing banner, as the riders moved to within 15 kilometres of the finish.
As a result, race organisers quickly decided to shorten the race by 3km which meant that the finish would be a tricky and technical one featuring a chicane in the final few metres.
As word of this filtered through to the riders in the peloton, the speed quickly picked up as teams jostled for position to contest the early sprint and resulted in a major crash involving Cav’s team-mate Sylvain Chavanel.
The latter hit the deck hard, as did one of Cavendish’s main sprint rivals Peter Sagan, and the Manxman was one of a plethora of riders caught up behind, thus ending his hopes of contesting the finish. Fortunately the Manx Missile escaped unscathed from the incident.
As this was unfolding, the Orica Green-EDGE bus was eventually removed and the finish was moved back to its original point in Bastia.
There was still time for more drama as Cav’s other main sprint rival, Andre Greipel, was forced to stop to deal with a mechanical problem on his bike, also ending his chances of the stage victory.
As the rest of the peloton raced towards the finish, Cav’s team-mate Nikki Terpstra attacked off the front in a bid to secure a breakaway win.
But the OPQS rider was caught near the finish and Marcel Kittel eventually powered ahead to clinch victory and the yellow jersey ahead of Alexander Kristoff of Katusha and Vaconsoleil rider Danny van Poppel.
Race organisers have since stated that all riders will be credited with the same finishing time but, such was the chaos on the opening day, that there may well be further repercussions.
There was bad news for Peter Kennaugh’s team-mates as Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas were taken to hospital for x-rays but were later released and should be able to continue.
However, there were was no such reprieve for Cav’s team-mate Tony Martin who was also taken to hospital but with a suspected broken collarbone.