For a moment it appeared Mark Cavendish’s Tour de France and Olympic hopes might be over on stage four to Rouen today, but the world champion is set to live to fight another day.
The first week of the Tour is often punctuated by crashes and the latest came in the final three kilometres of the 214.5-kilometre route from Abbeville, meaning there was no impact on the general classification standings, with Fabian Cancellara retaining the yellow jersey.
In the close-packed bunch, Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Sharp) spectacularly tumbled over his handlebars fracturing the peloton.
Cavendish (Team Sky) tumbled to the tarmac, before picking himself up gingerly, his world champion’s jersey in tatters and ripped across the back, and riding across the finish line more than four minutes behind stage winner Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol).
Both Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel were being treated by Team Sky’s medical staff after the stage.
Team principal Dave Brailsford expects them both to start tomorrow’s 196.5km fifth stage from Rouen to Saint-Quentin, but it will be this evening by the time their full injuries can be assessed.
“I can’t repeat what they said when they arrived on the bus,” Brailsford said.
“Sprinters crash, that’s part and parcel of the job. When you hit the ground that fast it always shakes you up.
“The adrenaline’s still running through the system so we’ll see how they are later. Bernie got quite a big gash above his eye, which was quite nasty. He’s having stitches – that will be sore. Mark’s more superficial.”