Tour de France 2014: Cavendish crashes out to put Tour future in jeopardy

Britain’s top sprinter suffers a painful shoulder injury and will learn on Sunday if his race is over

Mark Cavendish’s future in the Tour is in the balance after his dream of wearing the first yellow jersey in his mother’s home town was shattered within sight of the line yesterday, as the sprinter slammed into the ground in a high-speed crash on the streets of Harrogate.

The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider leaned hard against the Australian Simon Gerrans in the final metres in a bid to gain space to launch his sprint, but Cavendish’s lunge to the left cost him dearly as his front wheel skewed, his bike spun sideways and he somersaulted.

Seconds later Cavendish was slumped on the ground, in tears and clutching his right shoulder. When he had recovered himself sufficiently he gingerly pedalled towards the finish line and then a race medical vehicle took him to hospital.

Cavendish reportedly separated the acromioclavicular (AC) joint between his right shoulder and collarbone. Last night further reports indicated that he had suffered severe ligament damage but had not broken any bones when he tumbled to the tarmac in the accident, which he admits he caused himself.


A decision on his participation in the rest of the Tour was expected to be made this morning.“I’m gutted about the crash today,” Cavendish said. “It was my fault. I’ll personally apologise to Simon Gerrans as soon as I get the chance. In reality, I tried to find a gap that wasn’t really there.

“I wanted to win today, I felt really strong and was in a great position to contest the sprint thanks to the unbelievable efforts of my team. Sorry to all the fans that came out to support – it was truly incredible.”

Mark Cavendish hits the ground after he is caught up in a crash with Simon Gerrans

Cavendish’s team had deliberately timed their move to try to guide the Briton to the finish as late as possible so that he would conserve maximum energy for what looked to be a tricky, uphill sprint finish.

The sudden sight of Cavendish’s team-mates Michel Golas and Tony Martin curling out of the front of the bunch with four kilometres to go, with Cavendish bobbing securely behind their wheels, made it clear that the Belgian squad were hunting for a 26th Tour stage win for the Briton with clinical vengeance.

However, when Fabian Cancellara, the Swiss rider, shot away on the right-hand side of the road, it seemed to unsettle the Omega Pharma attack line. Then Cavendish himself dropped back as the road rose towards the finish. His jostling for position to try to rebound from the mini-setback ended in disaster.

Cavendish holds his collarbone as he is clearly in pain

“He was really impatient, he wanted to win,” Patrick Lefevre, Cavendish’s team manager, said. “He has already done this sprint 100 times in his head before. He’ll be really disappointed, of course, it’s his [mother’s] home town, he was very focused, maybe too focused.

“He was so sure to win that he probably made a mistake. Gerrans came next to him, slowed down, he wanted to get out, and he pushed with the shoulder and Gerrans pushed back and they crashed.”

Incredibly given the risks sprinters take, Cavendish’s injury looks to be the worst of his eight-year career. In 2010, he suffered an appalling crash in the Tour de Suisse, badly scraping and cutting himself, but he was able to continue racing for two more days.

Up ahead of Cavendish’s disaster, victory went to Marcel Kittel for the second year running. The German managed to outpower Slovakia’s Peter Sagan and the Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas by more than a bike length.

“For me it was not a goal to beat Mark Cavendish here in his home town, it was all about winning the first stage of the Tour de France. I am sure that Cavendish would have been in the mix had he not crashed, and I hope he will be back soon,” said Kittel, who received his yellow jersey from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry in front of a massive, if notably subdued, crowd in central Harrogate.

Cavendish’s dreadful accident, though, all but overshadowed what had – with the roadside crowds estimated at two million – looked set to be a superb first stage for British cycling, particularly when Chris Froome, Britain’s contender for overall victory, came home in sixth place.

“I felt good and today was about getting to the finish without any big issues,” Froome said. “The guys did a good job keeping me out of harm’s way. It was a shame for Cav in the final [sprint]. It would have been nice to have a British win today.”

Classification from Tour de France after Stage 1 on Saturday:

1. Marcel Kittel (Germany / Giant) 4:44:07"

2. Peter Sagan (Slovakia / Cannondale) ST

3. Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania / Garmin)

4. Bryan Coquard (France / Europcar)

5. Michael Rogers (Australia / Tinkoff - Saxo)

6. Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky)

7. Alexander Kristoff (Norway / Katusha)

8. Sep Vanmarcke (Belgium / Belkin)

9. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar)

10. Michael Albasini (Switzerland / Orica)