Germany's Marcel Kittel won the first stage of the Tour de France in a crash-marred bunch sprint in front of royalty in the English countryside.

After sprint rival Mark Cavendish fell in a late crash, Kittel won the 190.5km run along rocky, grassy hills from Leeds to Harrogate. The German raised his arms skyward and cried after he edged Peter Sagan of Slovakia in second, and Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania in third.

With fewer than 400 metres to go, and the speedsters rushing ahead, Cavendish veered slightly to his left and bumped Australia's Simon Gerrans. The two came crashing down alone, with Cavendish landing hard on his right shoulder.

After lying briefly on the ground, Cavendish got up gingerly and cruised over the finish line - cradling his right arm.

Many British fans were hoping for a win by Cavendish, a native of the Isle of Man, whose mother is from Harrogate. Prime Minister David Cameron, Princes William and Harry, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, were among throngs of British fans who lined the route, a testament to the cycling craze in the UK.

England hosts the first three stages of this 101st Tour before riders enter France on Tuesday. In all, the 198 riders are to cover 3,664km of road before the July 27 finish in Paris.

Source: AP