British sprint ace Mark Cavendish was taken to hospital after crashing during the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday.

Cavendish, 29, crashed hard in the finishing sprint in Harrogate, where his mother was born, at the end of the 190km opening stage from Leeds.

He was seen holding his collarbone on the tarmac, visibly in pain, before cradling his arm in his lap and grimacing as he rode to the finish line one-handed.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance but his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team doctor said he didn't think he'd suffered a broken shoulder.

“Mark had lived this sprint in his mind at least 100 times before. He was so focused, he wanted to win so badly,” said OPQS team manger Patrick Lefevere.

“He told me that Simon Gerrans slowed down and he really wanted to get out and he pushed and Gerrans pushed back. And that's how he crashed.

“It was so important for him. He's been taken to hospital for checks and we just hope nothing's broken. If nothing's broken, then of course Mark will continue.”

In the final sprint, Cavendish could be seen leaning into Gerrans as he seemed to be sandwiched between two riders and was trying to find space.

As he went down, Gerrans crashed too and the pair took down two or three other riders.

Gerrans said he would need to see the incident again.

“I'm not exactly sure what happened just yet, I'll obviously be watching the replay when I get back to the hotel. I think it will be replayed over a few times,” said the Australian.

“I think it's pretty unfortunate to get tangled up in a crash that close to the finish.

“I wont be going off to hospital, I'm going to be a little bit stiff and sore tomorrow and I've lost a little bit of skin but I think I'm all still in one piece.– AFP