Luke Rowe was caught up in a late crash as the Eneco Tour got off to a blustery start on stage one.
The Welshman had been prominent during the race, getting up during the third intermediate sprint to take two bonus seconds but went down hard in the crash following a touch of wheels.
With the peloton split in half it was Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) who benefited from the reduced bunch sprint to take the opening test and move into an early race lead.
Arnaud Demare (FDJ-BigMat) was next home at the finish in Middelburg with Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) taking a few important seconds with third. Rowe finished the stage having been awarded the same time as the bunch and sits seventh overall, eight seconds back.
The finish saw a big fight among the sprinters’ teams on a day which had seen a nervous start to the race with the threat of cross-winds. Alex Dowsett, Christian Knees and Jeremy Hunt all made their presence felt on the run to the line for Team Sky.
The cross-border WorldTour event kicked off in Waalwijk for an opening stage run exclusively on Dutch roads.
Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Staf Scheirlinckx (Accent.Jobs) braved the wet and blustery conditions as they went clear in the day's break, a disinterested peloton allowing their advantage to extend out over eight minutes.
Despite the bunch taking it easy for the first half of the day, the duo were still swept up with 74km remaining. With such a long way still to go a number of teams were willing to pitch in and set the pace on the front.
With significant cross-winds blowing from the right and despite a nervous peloton, the bunch remained intact along the coast, even after a number of concerted attempts to force splits.
A split did eventually form but for the wrong reasons, with a number of riders held up behind the late crash. With the incident occurring inside 3km all the riders were given the same time as the leaders.
After the stage we caught up with Sports Director Steven de Jongh who gave us the update on Rowe and the day's events.
“Luke was caught up in the crash," he confirmed. "We have to wait and see and let the doctor take a look at him. He’s got a swollen knee and his hand is really sore. A rider was looking behind him in front and they touched wheels and went down.
“It was really windy so everybody was nervous that they’d lose time in the cross-winds. The guys were riding well. They wanted to keep out of trouble and for most of the day they managed that well.
“Tomorrow is the team time trial and it’s going to be tough as we are already one man down with Thomas Löfkvist not starting due to his knee injury. We’ll have to see how it goes. Alex, Christian and Puccio are going well and we will look to them to be the engine of the time trial tomorrow. The guys will give it their best.”