2015 Tour Stage 2 highlights: Greipel edges out Cavendish on chaotic day, Cancellara takes yellow
Mark Cavendish's wait for a 26th Tour de France stage win goes on after Andre Greipel won a stormy second stage to Zeeland on which favourites Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali suffered setbacks.
The peloton had been fraught with anxiety about what was to come on the North Sea coast of Holland - and their worries proved well-founded.
Howling winds and wet weather battered the riders on the 166-kilometres route from Utrecht, but Greipel came out on top as Cavendish floundered in the finishing straight to come fourth.
Many hoped the 26th win of Cavendish's Tour career - which would take him within two of Bernard Hinault's tally, second only to Eddy Merckx's 34 - would come in Harrogate, his mother's hometown, in last year's race. Instead he finished crumpled on the Tarmac.
Twelve months to the day since that disappointment Cavendish suffered another despite being well positioned in the final metres after crosswinds and rain tore apart the peloton.
Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) beat Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) was third to take the race leader's yellow jersey courtesy of bonus seconds.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) were well positioned to exploit the mishaps of their major rivals for the maillot jaune in Paris in three weeks' time.
The pair were part of the 26-rider lead group after Quintana (Movistar) was caught behind an early split and defending champion Nibali (Astana) was stuck behind another, along with stage one winner Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing).
Quintana and Nibali conceded more than one minute to Contador and Froome.
Monday's 159.5km third stage from Antwerp finishes atop the category three Mur de Huy, where some of the contenders for the overall title could stretch their legs but are unlikely to gain much reward as it is only 200m long.
The weather reports from the finish would have worried the riders further as dark clouds dumped heavy rain. It later cleared, but not before some dramatic splits.
No-one wanted to give an inch as, should a split in the bunch occur in blustery conditions, it could grow and the consequences could end a rider's hopes for the day and potentially the title.
Froome was excellently shepherded by two other Britons, Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas, as the day's break was swept up with 62.5km to go.
Quintana was then caught the wrong side of a split with 50km to go and was soon more than a minute off the front 26-rider group, which included Cavendish, Team Sky trio Froome, Thomas and Stannard, as well as Contador.
Nibali, meanwhile, had been caught behind a further fracture to the front group, along with stage one winner Dennis.
The Quintana group returned to the bunch comprising Nibali and Dennis, giving them numbers to reduce the one-minute deficit with 33km remaining.
A puncture for Nibali with 25km to go left him with a frantic, but successful chase, to rejoin the second group, whose pursuit of the first group, led by Briton Alex Dowsett, appeared to be a forlorn one.
Cavendish became the clear favourite for the sprint, but his Etixx-QuickStep lead-out man Mark Renshaw went early and the Manxman surged for the line from 300m out.
He slowed to almost a standstill as Greipel, Sagan and Cancellara overtook him, leaving the Briton without a Tour win since 2013.
If Cavendish had not sat up, his team-mate Tony Martin would have denied Cancellara the maillot jaune and taken it for the first time in his career.
As it is, the Swiss will wear the jersey in a sixth Tour.