Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) may have to quit the Tour de France after crashing in the finale of the opening stage in Harrogate. The British sprinter bumped against Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and lost his chance to win the stage and the yellow jersey to Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).
A Tour medical report two hours after the stage said that X-rays revealed a separated right shoulder. The team will announce its decision on whether Cavendish will continue in the race on Sunday morning.
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“He blames that [Gerrans] was slowing down and he couldn’t get out, and of course he was very impatient and he wanted to win,” Omega Pharma-QuickStep general manager, Patrick Lefevere said.
“He has done this sprint 100 times before in his head, but without several riders, of course. It’s his mum’s hometown and he was so focused, maybe too focused. He was so sure he could win that he probably made a mistake, but like I said, Gerrans was next to him and slowed down, and wanted to get out.”
Gerrans was sandwiched between Cavendish on his right and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) on his left with 250 metres to race. He and Cavendish appeared to be fighting for space with images showing Cavendish’s head leaning into Gerrans’ right shoulder. Coquard continued and placed fourth.
The incident followed a near-perfect lead-out from the Belgian team for Cavendish. The white and black team hit the front with 4.2 kilometres to race and helped pull back an attack from Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) in the final kilometre.
“The lead out was OK, but the only thing is that John Degenkolb was able to pass through the lead out of Mark Renshaw with Kittel behind him,” Lefevere said. “Mark was in the wheel of Renshaw, but Gerrans came on the outside, at the moment he was on the same level as Mark, but he slowed down because he was à bloc [going all out]. Mark wanted to go out, he pushed, [Gerrans] pushed back and they crashed.”
“I knew that ‘Cav’ was there,” Gerrans said. “I was up there. I was on [Peter] Sagan’s wheel there in the last few hundred metres, so I was in an ideal position to be sprinting for the win. I was just about to open my sprint up when we got tangled up.”
Gerrans’ broke his rear derailleur and, after riding to the finish line, had to walk to the bus. His jersey was ripped but said that he didn’t break any bones.
Cavendish rode down the straight nursing his right arm to the sound of cheers from the fans. He spoke with Gerrans as he rode by and continued to the Omega bus. He stayed inside where the team’s doctor checked him while his wife and their daughter waited outside. Afterwards, he stepped out dressed in dark blue casual wear and boarded the race’s ambulance to head to the local hospital.
“The doctor checked him because our doctor is an orthopaedic,” Lefevere continued. “He thinks nothing is broken but to be sure to check it further at the hospital. Mark told me that he was so sure and so focused that if he could’ve gotten ahead… He didn’t say he could’ve won, but…”
Lefevere is waiting for news from the hospital, but said that he hopes for the best. “If he has nothing broken, of course he can continue. There are still three weeks to race and the Champs-Élysées stage.”
Images from the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France in Yorkshire