Germany's Marcel Kittel met expectations and won the second stage of the Tour de France with a commanding sprint finish Sunday while three-time champion Chris Froome didn't lose any time despite falling to the pavement amid a mass crash on a wet corner.
Froome's Sky teammate Geraint Thomas held on to the leader's yellow jersey.
Froome was near the front of the peloton when a Katusha rider ahead of him lost control coming around a sharp turn with about 20 miles to go. The domino reaction also took down last year's runner-up, Romain Bardet.
Froome's shorts and several layers of skin were torn and he had to change bikes as three teammates paced him back to the peloton.
“Obviously it was a stressful day in the rain and with that tumble,” Thomas said. “We all knew (Froome) was OK. It was just a matter of getting him back on.”
Having won the opening time trial Saturday, Thomas remained five seconds ahead of Swiss rider Stefan Kueng in the overall standings.
With a 10-second bonus, Kittel moved up to third overall, six seconds behind Thomas.
Froome is sixth, 12 seconds behind.
“It was stressful. You kind of forget what the Tour is like,” Thomas said. “The weather didn't help things at all.”
For the race's first full road stage following Saturday's opening time trial, Kittel clocked slightly more than 4 1/2 hours over the mostly flat 126-mile leg from Duesseldorf, Germany to Liege.
It was Kittel's 10th career Tour stage win.
As he often does after big wins, Kittel dropped to the ground and started crying after he crossed the line.
“I'm super happy, super proud,” Kittel said, dedicating the victory to the German fans who showed up at the start of the stage. “It was a very special win for me.”
Cavendish has been the dominant sprinter of his generation but did not have ideal preparation for the Tour after coming down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April.
That makes Kittel, who now has 10 wins this season, the man to be beat.
It was also an important win for Kittel's Quick-Step team, which is based in Belgium.
The route started with a short circuit, returning to Duesseldorf after passing through the Neander Valley. The peloton then veered southwest through Moenchengladbach and the border city of Aachen before crossing into Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region.
With a history of battles and rebellions, Liege is nicknamed “la cite ardente” — the city of fire.
An early four-man breakaway consisting of Thomas Boudat, Taylor Phinney, Yoann Offredo and Laurent Pichon — all Tour rookies — quickly gained more than a three-minute lead
Phinney, an American with Cannondale, and Offredo, a Frenchman with Wanty, were caught by the main pack with exactly one kilometer to go.
The race lost Alejandro Valverde, who finished third in 2015, to a crash on a rain-slickened bend Saturday. Valverde's Movistar team said he had successful surgery overnight for a broken left kneecap and an injured shinbone.
Also abandoning was Australian rider Luke Durbridge, who injured his ankle in the opening-day time trial.
The Tour remains in Belgium for the start of Stage 3 on Monday, a 132-mile leg from Verviers to Longwy, France, that passes through Luxembourg. The rolling leg features three fourth-category climbs and two third-category climbs, including one at the finish. It should set up well for punchy riders like Verviers native Philippe Gilbert.