Mark Cavendish pushed into barriers in ugly crash

Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish both fell in late crashes as Frenchman Arnaud Demare won stage four of the Tour de France in Vittel.

Thomas, wearing the race leader's yellow jersey, fell first in the tight technical finish to the stage but was soon up and on his way, with no time loss as the crash occurred in the final three kilometres.

But the news looked much worse for Cavendish who was pushed into the barriers and was attended to by medics as others slowly crossed the line around him.

Cavendish appeared to get a nudge from world champion Peter Sagan, who recovered to finish second behind Demare, with Alexander Kristoff third.

With time bonuses Sagan's second place is enough to push him up to second in the general classification ahead of Chris Froome.

Thomas leads by seven seconds from Sagan, with Froome staying 12 seconds down. Froome was held up by Thomas' crash but did not go down.

It was a first Tour de France stage win for FDJ's Demare, but it came with chaotic scenes on the road behind him.

Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) was forced into the barriers by Bora-Hansgrohe's Sagan, and the stricken Manxman brought down UAE Team Emirates' Ben Swift and Trek-Segafredo's John Degenkolb - the latter trying to bunny hop over Cavendish to avoid a direct collision.

Cavendish got up to slowly cross the line but was not holding the handlebars with his right hand as he looked to have badly hurt his shoulder.

Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after he crashed during the sprint of the fourth stage of the Tour de France. AP Photo/Christophe Ena

The 32-year-old, a 30-time Tour stage winner, had recovered from a long bout of illness to make it to this year's race as he sought to close in on Eddy Merckx's all-time record of 34 Tour stage wins.

Sagan was seen at the Dimension Data team bus after the stage to check on Cavendish.

It was a chaotic end to what had been a sedate stage from Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg.

The day was a long and lonely one for Wanty-Groupe Gobert's Guillaume van Keirsbulck, who attacked from the gun and found himself in a sole breakaway for 191 kilometres of the 207.5.

Team Sky massed on the front of the peloton early on but had no interest in chasing down the Belgian, allowing him to build up a lead of more than 13 minutes.

He enjoyed plenty of television time for his sponsors before finally being swallowed up on the approach to Vittel, and the battle for position began in earnest.

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