Marcel Kittel takes yellow jersey as Mark Cavendish crashes

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Tour de France 2014: Marcel Kittel takes yellow jersey as Mark Cavendish crashes in final kilometre

German sprints to stage one victory for second consecutive year

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) sprinted into the first yellow jersey of the 2014 Tour de France in Harrogate as Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) crashed heavily in the final kilometre.

Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-Quickstep team-mates had led the way up Parliament Street but an attack under the flamme rouge by Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) caused mayhem in the bunch.

Marcel Kittel celebrates sprinting into the yellow jersey in Harrogate (pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

The Manx Missile jostled for position with Simon Gerrans as the sprinters chased down Cancellara, leaning in to the Australian and bringing both down.

Just four riders avoided the carnage, with Kittel and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) among them, and it was the German who sprinted to stage one for the second year running.

The 101st Tour de France had been given a phenomenal send-off by the Leeds’ crowds, with fans packing the streets and seeking out every vantage point.

After a neutralised start out to Harewood House, hostilities finally began at mid-day, with the Duchess of Cambridge officially opening the race.

Within moments of the start being given, veteran German Jens Voigt launched an attack – the Trek Factory Racing man hauling Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).

The 41-year-old, riding his record-equalling 17th and final Tour, is clearly determined to add to his legendary breakaway exploits this year and the three were given license to build a small lead.

Giant-Shimano’s Cheng Ji, the first Chinese rider to start the Tour, also wasted little time living up to his reputation, however, having been introduced as the ‘breakaway killer’.

Ji was one of the first riders to hit the front of the bunch as Giant-Shimano, Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Lotto-Belisol shared the workload on the front.

Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line alone, his dreams of pulling on the yellow jersey in Harrogate in tatters (pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

The lead stuck at just more than three minutes for the three riders in front though, even after Edet suffered a mechanical as they passed through Skipton.

In the bunch, a crash for Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) at the back was the only moment of concern in the early part of the race as a steady pace was set by the sprint teams, with Lotto-Belisol in particular massing at the front.

Jarrier claimed the first King of the Mountains point of this year’s Tour, atop the Kidstone Pass – or ‘Cote de Cray’ as it has been renamed.

Both Team Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo brought their riders forward for the first climb too, the narrow road being packed on both sides by huge crowds.

The slowing of the pace in the bunch saw the three leaders’ advantage rise to more than four minutes and as the first intermediate sprint arrived, Voigt burst clear of his fellow escapees.

Hitting the fast descent hard, his move for the first green jersey points of this year’s Tour earned him a small solo lead.

The intermediate sprint also saw hostilities start in the bunch for the first time, with Cannondale bringing Peter Sagan forward and Omega Pharma-Quickstep lining out on the other side of the road.

It was Brian Coquard (Team Europcar) who won the kick however, after being led out by Kevin Reza, beating Greipel, Sagan and Cavendish in that order.

Jens Voigt was up to his usual tricks, launching a solo breakaway which earned him the polka dot jersey (pic: Dean Atkins/SWpix.com)

Back up the road, however, the Jensie show continued, his two former breakaway companions having no answer to his sudden acceleration.

What has been a 20-second advantage quickly grew to more than two minutes as the two Frenchmen accepted defeat and sat up.

It left the German icon to crest Buttertubs alone, urged on by phenomenal crowds who made the category-three ascent appear more like Alpe d’Huez as he sliced through the throngs of fans on either side.

The huge numbers of people lining the route created a bottle-neck effect in the bunch, forcing some riders to unclip, as Voigt’s advantage hung at four minutes.

At the back, Vuelta a Espana champion Christopher Horner was one of the men to lose contact with the peloton after a mechanical, drafting his team car as he bid to stay in contention.

He was not alone, however, with several big-name riders joining him in a grupetto as a small split occurred towards the back.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) were among the riders distanced by the peloton, which Lotto-Belisol led.

Voigt’s lead had dropped to less than two minutes as he hit the day’s final climb, the category-three ascent of Grinton Moor.

Crowds packed the route, making the climbs in the Yorkshire Dales more reminiscent of an Alpine summit finish (pic: Shaun Flannery/SWpix.com)

With more bottlenecks occurring behind, the German crested first to ensure he would take the first polka dot jersey of this year’s race but his lead had dropped to just 35 at the top.

He was eventually caught with 60 kilometres to go however, with the Rodriguez group also making up ground on the bunch.

Interestingly, Omega Pharma-Quickstep were absent from the front of the bunch, with Lotto-Belisol’s Lars Bak having done much of the riding into the wind.

And it soon transpired why – with Alessandro Petacchi still trailing the bunch, alongside Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida), Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Mickael Delage (FDJ.fr).

With less than 30 kilometres to go, the group were still off the back as Cavendish, Sagan and Demare geared up for the possibility of being without their lead-out men for the final sprint.

Omega Pharma-Quickstep were happy to come to the front, despite the absence of the veteran Italian however, while Lotto-Belisol continued to set the pace.

Tinkoff-Saxo also brought riders forward, protecting Alberto Contador – though that nearly backfired as they misjudged a corner – fortunately avoiding causing any major incident in the bunch.

There was no shortage of teams massing at the front – Movistar and Katusha also joining the party at the front as the race was spread right across the road.

Hundreds of thousands of fans flocked to line the route as Yorkshire delivered on its promise of the greatest ever Grand Depart (pic: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

With narrower lanes approaching, the battle for position intensified – with both Giant-Shimano and Omega Pharma-Quickstep boxed in.

The former belatedly managed to come forward with 10 kilometres to go, but the Belgian super team were boxed in by Lotto-Belisol on the other side of the road.

When the door finally opened, with four kilometres to go, however, they surged forward en masse to take charge of the peloton as it rode towards Harrogate.

Tony Martin buried himself as the race went up Parliament Street, but a late attack by Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) earned the Swiss rider a gap.

Desperate to chase him down, Giant-Shimano took over the chase, Kittel and Sagan moving forward to chase him down.

Just behind, Cavendish and Gerrans jostled for position – the Manxman leaning into the Australian champion before falling and brining both down.

Sagan, Kittel and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) just about avoided the crash, having moved forward at the perfect time.

And it left Kittel to power into the yellow jersey for the second consecutive stage, comfortably outsprinting his rivals.

Cavendish stayed grounded in agony as the German celebrated his triumph, though the GC men managed to avoid the carnage – Chris Froome even finishing sixth on the stage as everybody was awarded the same time.

And while Cavendish sheepishly crossed the finishing line, right arm hung limp across his lap, it left Marcel Kittel to celebrate on the podium in front of the watching royals and the huge crowds packed into Harrogate.

All photos used with kind permission of Simon Wilkinson and SWpix.com.

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Tour de France 2014: stage one – result

1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Giant-Shimano – 4.44.07hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale – ST
3) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Sharp
4) Bryan Coquard (FRA) – Team Europcar
5) Michael Rogers (AUS) – Tinkoff-Saxo +4”
6) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
7) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Team Katusha
8) Sep Vanmarcke (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
9) Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) – Movistar
10) Michael Albasini (SUI) – Orica-GreenEDGE

General Classification

1) Marcel Kittel (GER) – Giant-Shimano – 4.44.07hrs
2) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale – ST
3) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Sharp
4) Bryan Coquard (FRA) – Team Europcar
5) Michael Rogers (AUS) – Tinkoff-Saxo
6) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky
7) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Team Katusha
8) Sep Vanmarcke (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling
9) Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) – Movistar
10) Michael Albasini (SUI) – Orica-GreenEDGE

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