Mark Cavendish surged to victory in a crash-marred opening stage at the Tour de France on Saturday. The British rider claimed his 27th career stage win and will wear the leader’s yellow jersey for the first time.
Cavendish outsprinted German Marcel Kittel and world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia at the end of the 188-kilometer ride from Mont-St-Michel to Utah Beach, where Allied forces landed on D-Day in 1944.
Several of Cavendish’s main rivals were taken out of contention following a crash in the final straight.
The Isle-of-Man-born rider is third on the all-time list for stage wins at cycling’s premier race behind Belgian Eddy Merckx (34) and Bernard Hinault of France (28).
“I can’t believe it,” Cavendish said.
“To win a stage is incredible. I’m very emotional for it,” added the Dimension Data rider.
“It’s going to be a special day tomorrow to ride a stage in yellow. There was no better place to achieve this than Utah Beach, where soldiers died for us.”
Spaniard Alberto Contador, a two-time Tour winner and one of the favourites, crashed around 80 kilometers before the finish, sustaining bruising to his shoulder, elbow and groin.
“At first sight it does not look like he has suffered any fracture,” a race doctor said. “We gave him a painkiller.”
Sunday’s 183-KM second stage in the three-week race, the 103rdedition, is from Saint-Lo to Cherbourg.