Mark Cavendish was among the most outspoken in his criticism as members of the Tour de France peloton turned their anger toward race organizers after Saturday’s opening stage was marred by a series of crashes.
The 213km ride from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, the first stage ever to be held on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, was won in a sprint finish by Germany’s Marcel Kittel of the Argos-Shimano team.
However, his victory became something of a footnote at the end of a chaotic final 20km as the peloton flew along the narrow roads leading in to Bastia.
The confusion was caused when the bus of the Orica-GreenEdge team became stuck under the gantry at the finish line, forcing organizers to propose moving the line forward 3km before it was eventually moved into a safe position.
As the peloton approached the finish, they began to up the pace in preparation for the new conclusion to the stage, only to be caught out by the decision to revert to the original plan.
A whole host of riders, including Spain’s two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador, last year’s green jersey winner Peter Sagan of Slovakia and former world time trial champion Tony Martin went down in a mass crash 6km from the line, with the latter coming off worst.
The German fainted and was later put on a stretcher and taken to hospital in Bastia, fears that he had fractured his shoulder later proving unfounded, leaving his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Mark Cavendish furious.
“What caused the problems was changing the finish,” he told reporters. “We heard on the radio with literally 5km to go that the sprint was in 2km, and then 1km later they were like ‘No, it’s at the original finish.’ It’s just carnage.”
Contador insisted that he would be okay, while Team Sky duo Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard were declared fit to continue after undergoing tests following their falls, with the British team just happy to see their race favorite Chris Froome come home unscathed.