Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step has won his first stage of the 100th edition of the Tour de France - and 24th in total - winning the bunch sprint at the end of Stage 5 in Marseille. Former Sky team mate Edvald Boasson Hagen was second and points classification leader Peter Sagan of Cannondale third. Lotto-Belisol's Andre Greipel took fourth place in the first head-to-head meeting of the world's top sprinter's in this year's race.
It's Cavendish's first win in the British national champion's jersey, and what more one that is secured as he overcomes the bronchitis that has laid him low in recent days. Behind, there was a big crash in the peloton on the finishing straight, leaving a number of riders on the ground. Orica-GreenEdge's Simon Gerrans stays in the race leader's maillot jaune.
Six riders had got away right at the start of the 228.5km stage from Cagnes-sur-Mer, just west of Nice, which had a jagged profile including four categorised climbs and a number of smaller ones, the last of the latter crested just 12.5km from the finish.
Those were the Europcar pair of Kevin Reza and Yukiya Arashiro, in the red and white kit of Japanese national champion, Vacansoleil-DCM’s Thomas de Gendt, Astana’s under 23 world champion Alexey Lutsenko and Sojasun’s Anthony Deplace, the final pair being dropped with 50km still to ride.
With 20 kilometres remaining, the last four riders had an advantage of 2 minutes 16 seconds over the chasing peloton, De Gendt urging his three companions to help force the pace to try and stay away.
The gap was halved over the following 5 kilometres despite a big crash in the peloton that brought down a number of riders, including mountains classication leader Pierre Rolland of Europcar, and Garmin-Sharp’s Christian Vande Velde, who sat by the roadside afterwards holding up his arm in what seemed like a telltale sign of a broken collarbone, although he did complete the stage.
With 8km left, De Gendt and Arashiro had been brought back and with Omega Pharma-Quick Step working for Cavendish and Sagan’s Cannondale also forcing the pace, it wasn’t long until the final pair were caught.
Also near the front of the peloton was Orica-GreenEdge, looking for a third successive stage win, hopes today resting on Matt Goss, as well as seeking to protect maillot jaune Simon Gerrans, who avoided the crash at the finish.
Today’s stage saw 195 riders take to the start in Cagnes-sur-Mer – missing, despite the protests of fans and fellow riders, was Cannondale’s Ted King, nursing an injury from the opening day of the race and who missed the time cut by just 7 seconds in yesterday’s team time trial in Nice.
One of the other riders injured on Stage 1, Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, had what was undoubtedly a wince inducing moment when, after a bike change, a well-intentioned spectator gave him a helpful shove to get going – right where he has a fracture on his pelvis.
That wasn’t the only issue with over-enthusiastic fans today who crowded some of the climbs that punctuated today’s stage, with some near misses as the peloton swept by.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.