Mark Cavendish?s hopes of winning the first stage of the Tour de France on British roads ended 25km from Canterbury when he tangled with a spectator and crashed at speed.
Cavendish was moving to the head of the peloton ready for the sprint but found himself on the ground, battered and bruised.
His T-mobile team had planned their stage strategy around Cavendish contesting the sprint but suddenly switched to plan B, leaving Cavendish on his own, with Bernhard Eisel and Marcus Burghardt told to sprint to the finish.
Cavendish got up and got going after his crash but his bike was damaged and he lost every chance of catching the bunch by changing machines for a second time.
He finished the stage in 186th place, two minutes and 45 seconds behind winner Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) who also crashed a few kilometres later but clearly luckier as he got back up and won.
Cavendish was angry and deeply disappointed as he fought his way through the finish area and refused to speak until after getting his injuries cleaned up.
?I was flying with 25km to go but there was a big group of spectators at the side of the road and the next thing I knew I was on the floor. I?d obviously hit one of them and my bike was trashed,? Cavendish said.
?With the motivation for today I was floating along. Coming up to the end I was in a good position and I was confident to come into the finish.?
?Unfortunately, my bike was really damaged and couldn?t put it straight and had to change bikes.?
Cavendish was clearly disappointed but was determined to pick himself and hope for better luck during Monday?s second stage from Dunkirk to Ghent.
?I haven?t broken anything, just the normal cuts to my elbows and knees. It?s okay I?ll live to ride again,? he said before climbing back into the T-Mobile bus and heading to Folkestone for the channel tunnel train to Calais.
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