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Kittel’s thrill, Cavendish spill highlight first Tour stage

  • Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel crosses the finish line ahead of Peter Sagan of Slovakia, right, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel crosses the finish line ahead of Peter Sagan of Slovakia, right, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

  • Prince William, centre, Kate Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry walk along the street to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their grueling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell/Pool)

    Prince William, centre, Kate Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry walk along the street to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their grueling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell/Pool)

  • Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel kisses the trophy after winning the first stage and the overall leader's yellow jersey, of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

    Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel kisses the trophy after winning the first stage and the overall leader's yellow jersey, of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

  • Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel crosses the finish line ahead of second placed Peter Sagan of Slovakia, rear, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel crosses the finish line ahead of second placed Peter Sagan of Slovakia, rear, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

  • Riders crash in the last few hundred meters of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. Third left is stage winner Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel,  second left in green is second placed Peter Sagan of Slovakia, and third right in dark green is fourth placed Bryan Coquard of France.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Riders crash in the last few hundred meters of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. Third left is stage winner Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel, second left in green is second placed Peter Sagan of Slovakia, and third right in dark green is fourth placed Bryan Coquard of France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • A teammate, rear, raises his arms as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel, second right, crosses the finish line ahead of second place Peter Sagan of Slovakia, third from right, third placed Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania, right, and fourth placed France's Bryan Coquard, left, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

    A teammate, rear, raises his arms as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel, second right, crosses the finish line ahead of second place Peter Sagan of Slovakia, third from right, third placed Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania, right, and fourth placed France's Bryan Coquard, left, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

  • Kate Duchess of Cambridge talks to members of the public, gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their grueling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell/Pool)

    Kate Duchess of Cambridge talks to members of the public, gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their grueling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell/Pool)

  • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, rear, and Prince Harry watch as Mark Cavendish falls from his bike near the finish line of Stage 1 of the Tour De France Saturday, July 5, 2014 in Harrogate, England. The world's greatest cycle race, the Tour de France started for the first time in its history in Yorkshire this weekend. The event is expected to bring thousands of cycling fans to the region.  (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, Pool)

    Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, rear, and Prince Harry watch as Mark Cavendish falls from his bike near the finish line of Stage 1 of the Tour De France Saturday, July 5, 2014 in Harrogate, England. The world's greatest cycle race, the Tour de France started for the first time in its history in Yorkshire this weekend. The event is expected to bring thousands of cycling fans to the region. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, Pool)

  • Team Giant Shimano's Marcel Kittel puts on the leaders yellow jersey with help from the Duchess of Cambridge after stage one of the Tour de France in Harrogate, England, Saturday July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Martin Rickett)  UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES  NO ARCHIVE

    Team Giant Shimano's Marcel Kittel puts on the leaders yellow jersey with help from the Duchess of Cambridge after stage one of the Tour de France in Harrogate, England, Saturday July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Martin Rickett) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

  • Britain's Prince Harry, left, Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, watch as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, celebrates winning the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Britain's Prince Harry, left, Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, watch as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, celebrates winning the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, applauds as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey on the podium of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

    Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, applauds as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey on the podium of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

  • Britain's sprinter Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after crashing in the last kilometer of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Britain's sprinter Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after crashing in the last kilometer of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, applauds as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey on the podium of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

    Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, applauds as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey on the podium of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

  • Britain's sprinter Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after crashing in the last kilometer of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    Britain's sprinter Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after crashing in the last kilometer of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  • Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel crosses the finish line ahead of Peter Sagan of Slovakia, right, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
  • Prince William, centre, Kate Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry walk along the street to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their grueling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell/Pool)
  • Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel kisses the trophy after winning the first stage and the overall leader's yellow jersey, of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
  • Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel crosses the finish line ahead of second placed Peter Sagan of Slovakia, rear, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
  • Riders crash in the last few hundred meters of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. Third left is stage winner Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel,  second left in green is second placed Peter Sagan of Slovakia, and third right in dark green is fourth placed Bryan Coquard of France.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
  • A teammate, rear, raises his arms as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel, second right, crosses the finish line ahead of second place Peter Sagan of Slovakia, third from right, third placed Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania, right, and fourth placed France's Bryan Coquard, left, to win the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
  • Kate Duchess of Cambridge talks to members of the public, gathered to celebrate the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire at West Tanfield, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their grueling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell/Pool)
  • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, rear, and Prince Harry watch as Mark Cavendish falls from his bike near the finish line of Stage 1 of the Tour De France Saturday, July 5, 2014 in Harrogate, England. The world's greatest cycle race, the Tour de France started for the first time in its history in Yorkshire this weekend. The event is expected to bring thousands of cycling fans to the region.  (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, Pool)
  • Team Giant Shimano's Marcel Kittel puts on the leaders yellow jersey with help from the Duchess of Cambridge after stage one of the Tour de France in Harrogate, England, Saturday July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Martin Rickett)  UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES  NO ARCHIVE
  • Britain's Prince Harry, left, Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, watch as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, celebrates winning the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
  • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, applauds as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey on the podium of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
  • Britain's sprinter Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after crashing in the last kilometer of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
  • Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, applauds as Germany's sprinter Marcel Kittel puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey on the podium of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
  • Britain's sprinter Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line after crashing in the last kilometer of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, England, Saturday, July 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

HARROGATE, England – Mark Cavendish went down in a late crash. Marcel Kittel’s hands went up in victory. And British royals who turned out for the Tour de France debut in England witnessed new signs of a changing of the guard among two of the world’s top sprinters.

For many British fans, with cycling’s greatest race making a rare start in England yesterday, Stage 1 wasn’t supposed to end this way: They wanted British speedster Cavendish to get his first race leader’s yellow jersey and 26th career Tour stage win after the 118-mile ride through Yorkshire countryside.

But with the pack swelling in intensity and his rivals up front as the finish neared, Cavendish leaned his head to his left into Australia’s Simon Gerrans, and their bikes tumbled to the ground – with the Briton coming down hard.

Germany’s Kittel then made it look easy by dusting three other rivals at the finish. Cavendish got up gingerly and cruised across, cradling his right arm, and got into an ambulance. Tests showed a separated right shoulder. His team said it’ll be decided this morning if Cavendish rides in Stage 2 from York to Sheffield.

Contrite despite the pain, Cavendish said he was “gutted” about the crash.

“It was my fault. I’ll personally apologize to Simon Gerrans as soon as I get the chance. In reality, I tried to find a gap that wasn’t really there. I wanted to win today,” he said in a statement. “Sorry to all the fans that came out to support – it was truly incredible.”

The sprint specialist from the Isle of Man had a lot riding on this stage: His mother is from Harrogate. He had said winning yesterday was one of his key goals this year. And he had a bit to prove: Kittel, a 26-year-old rising star in sprinting, won four Tour stages last year, to Cavendish’s two. Many Britons wanted him to win gold in the road race at the London Olympics, but that quest also ended in disappointment.

Cavendish surely would have wanted to be in Kittel’s pedal-clip shoes when Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, handed the yellow jersey to the German, and she, husband Prince William and Prince Harry flanked him, clapping, on the winner’s podium in Harrogate.

“Before the stage, I said it was one goal, maybe, to be with Kate on the podium – and also, of course, Harry and William,” said Kittel, who also won Stage 1 at last year’s Tour. “It was not a goal for me to beat Mark Cavendish ... in his home country.”

“It’s not nice to have Mark crash. Nobody wants that,” he added.

Early signs that Britain’s sprint king may be losing his crown came at last year’s Tour, when Kittel beat him in similar circumstances. Doing it at two Tours in a row suggests that he really does have Cavendish’s number – although there are still plenty of chances at this Tour for the 28-year-old Briton to come back, if healthy.

Cavendish still has 116 total career victories, to 60 for Kittel, according to the Tour’s website.

As the sprinters battled it out yesterday, the two favorites for victory in the three-week race, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, finished safely in the trailing pack that clocked the same time as Kittel.

A second German excelled too: Veteran Jens Voigt took the polka-dot jersey as the race’s best climber, after getting out early on a three-man breakaway that first cleared three low-grade hills, including Buttertubs pass. At 42, the Trek rider is the oldest competitor this year: This is his 17th Tour, equaling the record.

The nervous first day included other mishaps. Untold tens of thousands of fans turned out in such big numbers that a train service shuttle between the start and finish towns was crammed, and some had to wait for 90 minutes or even longer to get aboard – or gave up altogether.

Yorkshire, the largest county in England, has paid richly for the right to host the Tour. The peloton sped by abbeys in ruins and sights like 14th century Bolton Castle, near Leyburn, before finishing in Harrogate, known for its spas.

In recent years, Britain has been cycling-crazed: Prime Minister David Cameron was in the crowd yesterday, too. England hosts the first three stages of this 101st Tour before riders enter France on Tuesday. In all, the 198 riders are to cover 2,277 miles of road before the July 27 finish in Paris.

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