York - British former world champion Mark Cavendish has pulled out of the Tour de France after dislocating his shoulder in Saturday's opening stage, his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team announced on Sunday.
The 29-year-old sprinter suffered the injury when he fell heavily in a high-speed crash after collliding with Australian Simon Gerrans close to the finishing line of the 190.5km stage from Leeds to Harrogate.
He underwent X-rays in hospital on Saturday night, which revealed the shoulder was not broken but dislocated, and the team decided to wait overnight to see if he was fit to continue the race before ruling him out on Sunday morning.
Cavendish, who has won 25 Tour stages in his career, had been fired up to win the opening stage in Harrogate, where his mother was born.
He had been well-placed on the run-in before the dramatic crash, which saw him hit the tarmac heavily on his right shoulder and brought a number of other riders tumbling down with him and Gerrans.
The Manxman was seen slumped on the ground, clutching his collarbone and clearly in pain before he was taken to hospital by ambulance to check nothing was broken.
But he was quick to hold up his hands and accept the blame for the crash.
“I'm gutted about the crash today. It was my fault. I'll personally apologise to Simon Gerrans as soon as I get the chance,” he said on Saturday night.
“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.”
Cavendish's Omega Pharma-Quick Step team said on Twitter: “@MarkCavendish will not start Stage 2 today. More information will be provided later.”
Even if the Omega Pharma-Quick Step leader was fit to continue, he would have faced a painful day in the saddle. Sunday's second stage is a punishing 200km run from York to Sheffield that takes in nine categorised climbs.
While the opening stage was one for the sprinters, with German bullet Marcel Kittel winning and taking the leader’s yellow jersey, Sunday’s run should suit either a breakaway or one of the peloton’s punchers and classics specialists.
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who won April’s Fleche-Wallonne race, one of three Ardennes Classics, said he was looking forward to Sunday’s stage.
“The profile is well suited to me,” he said.
The stage could also have been ideal for Gerrans, who won Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the third of the Ardennes Classics, but he said that after his crash, he would unlikely be in a fit state to challenge.
“I’ll definitely be going for it tomorrow but how much today’s crash has taken out of me I’m not quite sure, so I think we’ll probably just have to sit on the road tomorrow,” he said.
The lumpy nature of the stage, the fifth longest in this year’s race, could see opportunities for the overall contenders to gain time.
Twice former winner Alberto Contador said that means they will have to be on high alert.
“For tomorrow more of the same,” he said after revealing he was relieved to have got through Saturday’s opening stage unscathed.
“I hope to be paying good attention and to see how the day pans out in case there is movement between the favourites at the end.”
The 31-year-old Tinkoff-Saxo leader had previously singled out this stage as a potentially troublesome one.
“I have seen a video of this stage, it will be very tricky and there could be time gaps between the contenders,” he said at a pre-race press conference in Leeds on Friday.
“You have to consider that wind can also play a very important role. There are many climbs for a second day stage, it will be very tough and tricky so I hope to have good legs that day.”
Slovakia’s Peter Sagan finished second behind Kittel on Saturday’s opening stage.
Having won the green points jersey the last three years, he is expecting to pick up more points on Sunday, when pure sprinters like Kittel are not expected to reach the end with the leaders.
“It could be a really good chance but at the same time I expect a really tough finale,” said the Cannondale team leader. – Sapa-AFP