LIMOGES - Mark Cavendish crashed out of the Tour de France on Saturday ending his quest to overtake the all-time record for stage wins as Denmark's Mads Pedersen won a sprint for stage eight in Limoges.
A dejected Cavendish was taken away in an ambulance long before former world champion Pedersen won a bunched sprint ahead of Belgian duo Jasper Philipsen and Wout van Aert in central France.
Pedersen was swift to hail Cavendish who was racing in what is likely to be his final Tour de France in an effort to break the record of 34 stage wins he shares with Belgian great Eddy Merckx.
"It's sad a legend like him ends his Tour like that," said the 27-year-old Trek-Segafredo rider.
"I hoped so bad he'd get his 35th win on the Tour. It's painful not only for him but also for so many other people in cycling, riders and fans, everyone."
Sprint specialist Cavendish, 38, was forced to exit after suffering a suspected broken collarbone in a fall about 60km from the finish line. The Astana rider remained on the road for a couple of minutes rolling in agony every time he reached towards his right shoulder.
Cavendish was ashen-faced as doctors closed the ambulance door with organisers later confirming his withdrawal. Italian rider Gianni Moscon was behind Cavendish when he fell.
"There was a crash in front of us and Cav had to break because someone changed line," he said.
"He just hit the rear wheel of the guy in front of him and went down."
Landa, Yates come a cropper
A second crash occurred 5km from the finish line when an elderly spectator stepped slightly into the road sending Mikel Landa and Simon Yates crashing to the tarmac.
In the overall standings Jonas Vingegaard kept the leader's yellow jersey 25 seconds ahead of Tadej Pogacar a day ahead of an expected duel between the duo on the slopes of the Puy de Dome volcano.
"It was really sad indeed to hear that news," said defending champion Vingegaard of Cavendish.
Pogacar was philosophical on how dangerous cycling is, but said the whole peloton was upset to see Cavendish crash out in this manner.
"Everyone wanted him to win another stage," said the Slovenian.
"He was on good form too If you saw him yesterday he was so close. It's awful," said Pogacar, who described Cavendish as one of the idols of his youth.
On Sunday, the race goes back to the slopes where the duel between two-time winner Pogacar and defending champion Vingegaard will be given a fitting setting as the peloton climbs the dormant Puy de Dome.
The venue has been flagged as the Tour's top stage as much for its storied past as for its fearsome 13km slope topping out with 4km at 12 percent gradient.