“It’s going be a special day tomorrow to ride a stage in yellow,” Cavendish said. “There was no better place to achieve this than Utah Beach where soldiers died for us.”
After donning the yellow jersey, Cavendish joined a specially invited group of American, Canadian, French, Belgian and German riders who laid white roses in front of Utah Beach’s Peace Monument to commemorate the Allied landings.
German rival Marcel Kittel and Slovakian standout Peter Sagan finished second and third, respectively, in the 188 kilometre picturesque stage, which began at Mont Saint Michel, a World Heritage Benedictine abbey perched on a rock off the Normandy coast.
Pushed by a strong tail wind of up to 70kmh, the leaders required slightly more than four hours to reach the finish.
Two time Tour winner AlbertoContadorcrashed midway through the stage and several riders were involved in an ugly high speed crash on the final straight.
Contadorhit a traffic curb while coming around a right turn. The Spaniard came away with some serious road rash and had his jersey ripped on his back and right shoulder, but he was quickly helped back to the peloton by hisTinkoffteammates.
Defending champion Chris Froome and the other overall favourites finished safely in the main pack.
In the overall standings, Cavendish leads Kittel by four seconds with Sagan six seconds behind, courtesy of time bonuses.
Once dominant in the sprints, Cavendish had struggled to keep up with rivals like Kittel and Andre Greipel in recent years. The 31 year old Briton, nicknamed the “Manx Missile,” joined South African team Dimension Data for this season after shoulder surgery in September. Cheap Jerseys china He withdrew during last year’s Tour with ruptured ligaments in his right shoulder.
The Grand Depart returned to home roads after visits to Britain and the Netherlands in the last two years
The route also passed through Sainte Mere Eglise, where American paratrooper John Steele dangled from a clock tower after his parachute got caught during the invasion, and survived. The town is now home to the Airborne Museum.
Adding to the pageantry, Patrouille de France military jets performed a flyover at the start of the stage, colouring the sky in the blue, white and red of the French flag.
The stage included two mild Category 4 climbs in the opening 40 kilometres, but was otherwise a mostly flat and rolling route along the English Channel coast.
On a clear but cool day, five riders formed an early breakaway and established a lead of nearly three minutes at one point. The last remaining breakaway riders, Anthony Delaplace, a Frenchman with Fortuneo Vital Concept team, and Alex Howes, an American with Cannondale Drapac, were caught by the peloton with five kilometresto go.