This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) won his second stage of the Tour de France in Saint-Malo in a rapid bunch sprint after the 197km stage. The German topped his compatriot Andre Greipel, while Mark Cavendish was delayed by a tangle with Kittel's teammate in the final 100m and finished third.
Cavendish bounced Tom Dumoulin away as he opened up his sprint, and astonishingly enough, the Argos rider was the only one to fall even though his bike and body tumbled across the road in the middle of the bunch.
Kittel was simultaneously thrilled to win his second stage of the Tour, but also upset about the crash and concerned for his teammate.
"First I'm really happy we won the stage today, but on the other hand, Tom crashed at high speed and I hope he's OK. It's a bit up and down within one minute."
Kittel wore the maillot jaune for a day on stage 2, and with a pair of wins, the team has already gotten everything it wanted out of the race.
"I'm so so happy we've had such as successful Tour," Kittel said. "I'm proud of my boys, they did a great performance today. I'm hoping we can repeat that again, but from here on out it's about enjoying the Tour."
Chris Froome (Sky) stayed safe in the tricky and nervous final 20km and retained the race's maillot jaune of race leader.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) has stayed in the yellow jersey
How it unfolded
The Tour de France transfered from the Pyrenees on the rest day up to Loire-Atlantique for a nearly 200km stage that, while a target of the sprinters, was anything but flat. While lumpy, the stage had just one classified climb, making no threat to Pierre Rolland's polka dot outfit.
Pedaling due north into a headwind toward Saint-Malo, the southern terminus of the English Channel, the overall contenders conserved their energies, and Froome's Sky Procycling team let the sprinters' teams take charge of the day.
True to formula, a breakaway of five riders, Jerome Cousin (Team Europcar), Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel), Luis Mate (Cofidis), Lieuwe Westra (Vacansolile) and Julien Simon (Sojasun), escaped in the first few kilometers and were very quickly given a few minutes' lead.
With Oroz the highest placed on GC at 1:03:19 behind race leader Chris Froome, they could have been given a much larger leash, but the teams of Cavendish, Kittel and Greipel did not want to make too big of a task for themselves, and kept them pegged around four minutes for much of the stage.
The most excitement of the mid-point of the stage came from the intermediate sprint, where Mate put in a spirited effort to take the maximum prize ahead of Westra. Cannondale waited until the 1km banner before the intemediate sprint to take charge, pulling green jersey Sagan to the line, but the Slovakian champion was not fast enough and was beaten by Greipel for sixth place, with Cavendish coming in behind Sagan.
The gap to the leaders was cut in half before the next major landmark, the sole mountain sprint with 55km left to race. Westra sprinted away up the short Cote de Denain to take the single point on offer.
With 27km left in the stage, the peloton had whittled down the lead to less than a minute, and Oroz tried to attack, but could not get away.
With an anticipated switch from headwind to strong crosswind in the final 20km, the overall contenders were all moved up to the front of the race to stay safe from any possible splits in the peloton, creating a nervous atmosphere in the peloton as it wound through twisty roads along the coastline. Juan Antonio Flecha was the victim of the nerves, getting tangled with a Cofidis rider at a roundabout.
His teammate Westra was the first rider to go back to the field, likely in order to protect Mollema and Ten Dam in the hectic finale as the breakaway's chances were clearly doomed. Westra himself would be involved in a crash soon after, going down with Garmin Sharp's GC hopeful Andrew Talansky.
Saxo-Tinkoff tried to split the bunch but failed, then Garmin took over control, allowing Talansky to get back in but also keeping Dan Martin up in front. Once Lotto Belisol, Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Argos-Shimano started fighting for control, the breakaway was caught with 6km left to race.
Orica-GreenEdge then took to the front for Matthew Goss, with Stuart O'Grady negotiating the twisty run-in with aplomb. Saxo and Sky kept their GC men right at the front until the 3km to go banner, then the sprinters were given the green light.
Lotto Belisol appeared as if it would deliver Greipel to the victory, but the German champion opened up the sprint too early and was overpowered by Kittel before the line.