5 things to know about the Tour 1st stage
HARROGATE, England (AP) Despite the royal icing on the cake on the Tour de France's opening day, the first stage is all about Mark Cavendish.
Just not the way he wanted.
Meters from the finish in his mother's hometown of Harrogate, he crashed, and may have damaged his shoulder enough to be finished with the Tour.
Here's five things to know about Saturday's stage, and Sunday's:
PARTY SPOILED: Cavendish, Britain's best sprinter and winner of 25 Tour stages, made the first stage from Leeds to Harrogate the main goal of his season. It was a chance to wear the yellow jersey for the first time, but he lost his focus for a tenth of a second and his dream turned into a nightmare. Spurred on by the noise and encouragement of more than one million fans lining the course in Yorkshire, he fared well over the 190 kilometers and looked set for a fierce battle with his main rival Marcel Kittel in the finale. But with 300 meters to go, Cavendish made a mistake as he leaned on Simon Gerrans and took the Australian down with him.
With his jersey lacerated, Cavendish managed to cross the finish line but did not speak to reporters. After some comfort from his wife and daughter, he headed to a local hospital, where exams revealed ligament ruptures and a joint dislocation in his right shoulder. His team will reveal on Sunday whether he will continue on the Tour. ''I'm gutted about the crash today,'' Cavendish said later in a 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, I felt really strong, and was in a great position to contest the sprint thanks to the unbelievable efforts of my team. "
Gerrans escaped uninjured and Kittel went on to win. As was the case last year, the German sprinter took the yellow jersey that everyone thought would end up on Cavendish's shoulders.
FROOME AND CONTADOR DODGE DANGERS: Defending champion Chris Froome avoided the crash and took a surprising sixth place in the stage, while two-time champ Alberto Contador ended safely in the pack, in 22nd place. Both rivals were awarded the same time as Kittel. Froome received good protection from his teammates and was unfazed when the peloton split in the Cote de Buttertubs. Contador said: ''Just surviving a stage like today is a victory. These stages are all about avoiding any trouble. The team protected me, and I will count on them in the coming days.''
ROYAL SEND-OFF: After a procession through the streets of Leeds, the 198 Tour riders received a warm welcome from Royal family members including the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William. Alongside Prince Harry, they met the riders at 255-year-old Harewood House, where the peloton was also greeted by a Red Arrows fly-past. In a green outfit, the Duchess cut the ribbon to officially start the race as the French national anthem resonated, followed by ''God Save the Queen.'' Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, relaxed in an open-collar shirt, also was at the finish line.
FRANCE IN YORKSHIRE: The Tour entourage has brought a lot of French-accented English to the Yorkshire countryside, and at least one quaint and enthusiastic town has returned the favor - with some French. In Otley, shortly after the start of the race, pubs and restaurants were rechristened, with French banners draping their window fronts: The Black Horse became Le Cheval Noir, The White Swan was renamed Le Cygne Blanc, and The Crossed Pipes became Les Pipes Croisees. The three climbs featured in the stage were also renamed by Tour organizers, with the Cote de Cray, Cote de Buttertubs and Cote de Grinton Moor giving an exotic flavor to the local landscape.
UP AND DOWN ALL DAY: Sunday's second stage takes the riders from York to Sheffield on a hilly terrain likely to favor one-day classics specialists. The narrow Yorkshire roads are quite dangerous and the short climb near the finish line, with an average gradient of 10.8 percent, is unlikely to allow a massive sprint. Overall contenders will be wary of the 4.7-kilometer Holme Moss climb, about 60 kilometers from the finish, and will make sure they ride near the front to avoid getting caught by a break. ''We'll have to be in front, focused at all times to keep it together, because the peloton will be broken in many groups,'' Contador said. This is an ideal stage for Peter Sagan, who is contending for a third straight green jersey and will be chasing a fifth stage victory on the Tour.
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