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Mark Cavendish rides in the Tour de France

Mark Cavendish attempts to break the Tour de France stage win record (Getty Images)

Briton Mark Cavendish had great difficulties on the first stage of the Tour de France and finished 39 minutes behind the peloton.

Frenchman Romain Bardet of DSM-Firmenich-PostNL won the Grand Départ from Florence to Rimini in Italy.

Bardet’s teammate Frank van den Broek finished second after the two riders broke away and the race ended just seconds ahead of the final peloton.

Cavendish, from Astana, Kazakhstan, is trying to break the Tour de France record of 34 stage wins, which he shares with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx.

The 39-year-old retired last year after missing the record by centimeters, but then gave up the race after breaking his collarbone in a fall.

Cavendish crossed the finish line with his teammate and fellow DSM sprinter Fabio Jakobsen 10 minutes before the elimination time limit.

There was speculation that Cavendish fell ill during the stage in sweltering heat, but he is expected to continue in what is likely to be his last Tour.

Continue.

Results of the first phase

1. Romain Bardet (Fra/DSM-firmenich PostNL) 5 hrs 07 mins 22 secs

2. Frank van den Broek (Ned/DSM-firmenich PostNL) At the same time

3. Wout van Aert (Bel/Visma-Lease a Bike) +5 seconds

4. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) At the same time

5. Maxim van Gils (Bel/Lotto-dstny) “

6. Alex Aranburu (Spa/Movistar) “

7. Mads Pedersen (Den/Lidl-Trek) “

8. Remco Evenpoel (Bel/Soudal Quick-Step) “

9. Pello Bilbao (Spa/Bahrain victorious) “

10. Alberto Bettiol (Ita/Education-Easy Post) “

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