Liege: Chris Froome got a brutal reminder of the unpredictable nature of the Tour de France when he crashed to the ground in Sunday's second stage, recovering to finish with torn shorts as German Marcel Kittel powered to victory at the end of a huge sprint.
After being faster than his rivals in Saturday's opening time trial, and while he was sitting comfortably near the front of the peloton, defending champion Froome was brought down when a Katusha rider lost his balance in front of him some 30km from the finish.
Last year's runner-up Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) was also involved in the pile-up but the Frenchman and three-time champion Froome made it back to the main pack after a brief chase.
Froome's Sky teammate Geraint Thomas retained the overall leader's yellow jersey at the end of the 203.5-km ride from Duesseldorf in Germany, ahead of Swiss Stefan Kueng (BMC Racing) and Kittel.
"When that happens (a crash in the front) there's nowhere to go," said Thomas.
"There is no real damage at all, he lost a bit of skin, but it's all good. You've got to be super lucky to miss it and avoid it."
Breakaway riders American Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac), nearing his best after a serious leg injury in 2014, and Frenchman Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Group Gobert), were given some breathing space as the pile-up slowed down the peloton.
However the sprinters' teams organised themselves in the finale and the duo were reined in 1.1 km from the line.
Kittel, of the Quick-Step Floors team, had too much horsepower for his rivals and he was half a wheel ahead of the rest in a messy finish.
"I'm super happy and super proud as it was a special day since we started from Germany," said Kittel, who now has 10 Tour stage wins to his name.
"We had a plan that we could really execute but no team could. I was in a good position 500 metres from the line so I had my chance.
"I'm in very good shape, in very good condition. We have definitely good chances for more stage wins."
French champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ) settled for second with another German, Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), in third place.
Briton Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), who is on the Tour despite suffering from the Epstein Barr virus this season, took an encouraging fourth place.
Monday's third stage will take the peloton over 212.5 km from Verviers, Belgium, to Longwy as the race enters France.
Ending at the top of a short, brutal climb, it should favour the one-day classic specialists such as world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia or Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet of Belgium.