HARROGATE, England -- Marcel Kittel of Germany won the first stage of the
Kittel, who earned four Tour stages last year, won the 118-mile ride in mainly bucolic Yorkshire countryside from Leeds to Harrogate. The German raised his arms skyward and cried after he edged
"I am incredibly proud of this victory," Kittel, a Team Giant-Shimano rider who also won two
"It's really awesome. Deja vu, yeah."
The two top favorites for victory in the three-week race,
With fewer than 400 meters to go, and the speedsters rushing ahead, Cavendish veered slightly to his left and bumped Australia's
Cavendish got up gingerly and cruised over the finish line — cradling his right arm. After returning to his Omega Pharma QuickStep team bus with scratches all over his back, he climbed into an ambulance without speaking to reporters.
Patrick Lefevere, Cavendish's team manager, said the Briton was taken to hospital for X-rays after injuring his head, right shoulder and right wrist: "The orthopedic doctor thinks there is nothing broken but we need to wait for the images … if nothing is broken, he can continue" the race on Sunday.
According to Lefevere, Cavendish said Gerrans slowed down in front of him, and he couldn't get out of the way. "(Cavendish) was so sure that he would win that he probably made a mistake. He wanted to get out, he pushed, Gerrans pushed back, and they crashed," Lefevere said.
Many British fans were hoping for a win by Cavendish, a native of the Isle of Man, whose mother is from Harrogate. Prime Minister David Cameron, Princes William and Harry, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, were on hand among throngs of British fans who lined the route — a testament to the cycling craze in the U.K.
England hosts the first three stages of this 101st Tour before riders enter France on Tuesday. In all, the 198 riders are to cover 3,664 kilometers (2,277 miles) of road before the July 27 finish in Paris. Stage 2 on Sunday covers 201 kilometers from York to Sheffield, in southern Yorkshire.
Cavendish previously said that winning the first Tour stage was his main goal this year. He was hoping to capture his first yellow jersey and his 26th Tour stage win.
"It's sad because he (Cavendish) was racing in front of the home country," Sagan said.
Added Kittel: "I hope he gets well soon. I'm looking forward to seeing him on the race tomorrow … it's not nice to have Mark crash. Nobody wants that."
A second German excelled on the English roads: Veteran
The nervous first day included more mishaps. Untold tens of thousands of fans turned out in such big numbers that a train service shuttle between the start and finish towns was crammed, and some had to wait for 90 minutes or even longer to get aboard — or gave up altogether.
Yorkshire, the largest county in England, has paid richly for the right to host the Tour. The peloton sped by abbeys in ruins and sights like 14th century Bolton Castle, near Leyburn, before finishing in Harrogate, known for its spas.