Italian rider Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) came through to win the 192km fourth stage of the Tour of Switzerland here on Tuesday, although a mass crash marred the final sprint.
German Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia), held up by the crash 50 metres from the finish line, kept hold of the leader's yellow jersey.
The pile-up occurred when Martin's Columbia team-mate Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and the German-Australian Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo Test Team), winner of the second stage, touched bikes as they were sprinting for the line.
The two leaders both went to ground, bringing down a dozen other riders with them, notably the Belgian Tom Boonen (Quick Step), who hit Cavendish on the way.
Haussler, who was taken to hospital where tests revealed a deep wound to his right elbow, will take no further part in the race.
"I didn't see Cavendish coming," he said. "He drove into my wheel and before I knew it, I went down and was lying on the ground. I could have won the stage today."
Columbia team doctors said Cavendish was not seriously injured.
"Cavendish's worst injuries are that he suffered from severe road rash and major bruising," the team said in a statement.
"The rider will undergo x-ray examination as a precautionary measure."
The Briton, however, was held responsible for the crash by the Tour jury and was handed a series of punishments for "changing his line, putting his colleagues in danger and causing an accident".
Cavendish was docked 30 seconds in the general classification, 25 points in the points classification and ordered to pay a fine of 200 Swiss francs (143 euros).
Frenchman Arnaud Coyot (Caisse d'Epargne) was another victim, suffering a suspected broken hip, but RadioShack's Lance Armstrong was not involved.
The 36-year-old Petacchi had abandoned the Tour of Italy on the eighth stage because of a bronchial problem.
The winner of over 150 honours during his 14-year career, he had enough breath in him this time to pick his way through the crash site and take his first ever stage win in Switzerland.
"I was a long way back and normally wouldn't have any chance of winning this stage," said Petacchi. "I don't know what happened in front. Maybe the wind had something to do with this unfortunate finish. I don't like winning this way. If Cavendish hadn't crashed, he would certainly have won."
Denmark's Matti Breschel (Team Saxo Bank) took second place while another Italian, Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil), was third over the line.
Wednesday's fifth stage takes the riders 172km from Wettingen to Frutigen.
© AFP 2010