British rider Mark Cavendish won the fourth stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday after a sprint finale.
Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel from team Alpecin kept the yellow jersey.
For Cavendish, who was sidelined for several years by the Epstein-Barr virus, Tuesday marks a return to form — the last time he won a stage at the Tour de France was in 2016.
Cavendish was not expected to be among the eight riders selected by Deceuninck-Quick Step for the Tour but secured a spot on the team after Ireland’s Sam Bennett — last year’s green jersey awarded to the race’s best sprinter — withdrew because of a knee injury.
His 31rst stage victory brings him closer to Belgian legend Eddy Merckx, who holds the record for most Tour wins with 34 stages.
Riders staged a protest at the start of Tuesday’s stage over perceived dangerous racing conditions following numerous crashes in the first three stages.
They dismounted for a minute, a few hundred metres after the flag was lowered to signal the actual start of the stage, before setting off again.
The peloton asked, according to Radio Tour, for a “dialogue on safety to be established with all the stakeholders in cycling, UCI (International Cycling Union), organisers, teams and riders”.
The race really got underway about ten kilometres later when Belgian rider Brent Van Moer attacked and was immediately joined by Frenchman Pierre-Luc Périchon. But the duo only got a three-minute lead — a gap controlled by Canvandish’s teams, as well as Alpecin and Groupama-FDJ.
On Wednesday, van der Poel will enter the first of the two time trials of the Tour with an 8-second advantage over world champion Julian Alaphilipp.