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Tour de France: Cavendish crashes as Kittel wins opener

updated 5:19 PM EDT, Sat July 5, 2014
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry (right) watch as Mark Cavendish falls from his bike near the finish line.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry (right) watch as Mark Cavendish falls from his bike near the finish line.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mark Cavendish dislocates his shoulder in Tour de France crash
  • Saturday's opening stage won by Germany's Marcel Kittel
  • Early stages of Tour taking place in UK for first time in seven years
  • Royal family launches historic first leg in Yorkshire

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(CNN) -- He was hoping to triumph in front of his home fans, but it all went horribly wrong for cycling star Mark Cavendish -- with members of the Royal family watching.

With the 101st Tour de France starting in Britain this year, all eyes were on Cavendish in Saturday's opening stage in Yorkshire.

But the 29-year-old, one of the most successful sprinters in the race's history, dislocated his right shoulder and suffered ligament damage after colliding with rival Simon Gerrans during the finish.

Germany's Marcel Kittel won the 190.5-kilometer (118-mile) stage to take an early advantage in the month-long race, which is commencing in the UK for the first time since 2007.

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Cavendish, from the Isle of Man, admitted his maneuver was reckless and took full responsibility for the clash.

"It was my fault, I'll apologize to Simon. I tried to find a gap that was not there, I wanted to win," Cavendish was quoted as saying by the UK's Press Association.

"I felt really strong and was in a great position to contest the sprint thanks to the unbelievable efforts of my team. Sorry to all the fans that came out to support -- it was truly incredible."

An MRI scan later is expected to reveal the full extent of Cavendish's injuries and confirm whether he is fit enough to continue.

"Mark had lived this sprint in his mind at least 100 times before," his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team boss Patrick Lefevere said.

"He was so focused, he wanted to win so badly. It was so important for him."

Yorkshire police estimated that as many as one million people lined the streets along the route, the vast majority no doubt hoping to witness a Cavendish victory, while the race was seen off by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

William and Kate, along with Prince Harry, later had a clear view of Cavendish's crash.

His spill in the final 200 meters enabled Giant-Shimano rider Kittel to race clear and take the yellow jersey ahead of Slovakia's Peter Sagan and Lithuania's Ramunas Navardauskas.

"I hope he gets well soon," Kittel said of Cavendish, who has won 25 Tour stages in his career and claimed the green jersey for top sprinter in 2011.

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"I don't know how badly he is injured. I hope he is all right. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing him tomorrow in the race again. I wish him all the best."

The 26-year old, who also won last year's opening stage, paid tribute to the enthusiastic Yorkshire crowd as well as his teammates who set him up for the win.

"It was so unbelievably loud. The fans were cheering," he said.

"My boys did an amazing job, they rode so strong. I felt so motivated and I had good legs today. I'm so, so happy that this worked."

Defending champion Chris Froome, who leads Cavendish's former outfit Team Sky, finished sixth after avoiding the fallout of the crash.

"It's unreal, absolutely unreal," Froome said. "The crowds out there were just incredible.

"Just a shame for Cav in the final there. It would've been nice to have a British victory today, but that's racing.

"Today was more about staying out of trouble, getting to the finish without any big issues."

Sunday's stage two will take the riders 201 kilometers (124 miles) from York to Sheffield, featuring roughly 3,000 meters of climbing.

Read: Welcome to 'God's own county'

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