HARROGATE, England — Marcel Kittel of Germany won the first stage of the Tour de France for a second straight year after a late crash brought down British rival Mark Cavendish in the presence of royals on Saturday.
Kittel, who earned four Tour stages last year, won the 118-mile run in mainly bucolic Yorkshire countryside from Leeds to Harrogate. The German raised his arms skyward and cried after he edged Peter Sagan of Slovakia in second, and Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania in third.
“I am incredibly proud of this victory,” Kittel, a Team Giant-Shimano rider who also won two Giro d’Italia stages in May, said through a translator. “It happened pretty easily. It was like coming out of a tunnel. I was able to accelerate like never before.
“It’s really awesome. Deja vu, yeah.”
The two favorites for victory in the three-week race, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, finished safely in the trailing pack that clocked the same time as Kittel.
With fewer than 400 meters to go, and the speedsters rushing ahead, Cavendish veered slightly to his left, tilted his head and bumped into Australia’s Simon Gerrans. The two crashed alone, with Cavendish landing hard on his right shoulder.
Cavendish got up gingerly and cruised over the finish line — cradling his right arm. X-rays revealed he separated his right shoulder, a Tour statement said. Omega Pharma QuickStep said in a separate statement that a decision about whether he will continue the race will be made this morning.
“I’m gutted about the crash today,” Cavendish said in the statement. “It was my fault. I’ll personally apologize 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.”
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.