CHATEAUROUX, FRANCE // British cycling fans endured a day of mixed emotions as Team Sky leader Bradley Wiggins crashed out of the Tour de France before Mark Cavendish replicated his first Tour de France victory in a seventh-stage success in Chateauroux.
Wiggins, who finished fourth in the 2009 Tour, tumbled to the tarmac with around 40 kilometres of the 218km stage from Le Mans to Chateauroux remaining, suffering a broken collarbone and forcing him to abandon a race he began with high hopes.
Dave Brailsford, the Team Sky manager, confirmed the injury and described it as "a clean break".
"He couldn't get back on his bike and it was clearly broken, so we're all gutted because we had high hopes of getting him on the podium," Brailsford said.
"It's obviously a devastating day for the team. He's in great shape, team leader, it's the end of his Tour. It's a shame we never got to see him going in the mountains. He was in the form of his life."
Brailsford said he expected Wiggins to be healed in time for the world championships in Copenhagen later this year. "There's no reason why he can't get back into the phenomenal shape he's in now. We absolutely believe he can do that."
Wiggins, who had been sixth in the standings before yesterday's stage, was one of about 20 riders caught near the back of the peloton with 38km to go of the stage. Wiggins, who was holding his left arm, grimaced in pain after the crash as he walked around in small circles, looking disorientated.
Organisers announced that Wiggins had pulled out several minutes later. He was then taken away in an ambulance.
Now Brailsford must designate a new team leader for the rest of the race.
The veteran American rider, Chris Horner, was also caught as several riders went down in the crash, but the 39-year-old RadioShack rider was able to continue.
Tyler Farrar, winner of Monday's third stage, also went down, but the Garmin-Cervelo rider was unharmed as he climbed back on to his saddle and sped off.
The first week of the Tour has seen several crashes, with the three-time defending champion, Alberto Contador of Spain, fortunate to escape with minor cuts and bruises after crashing on Wednesday's fifth stage.
At the front, Cavendish secured victory in his trademark style: in a sprint duel.
The victory was the 17th Tour stage win in the career of the Isle of Man rider, taking him to eighth on the all-time list. His first Tour stage victory had come on the same road in Chateauroux in 2008.
"It's a very special day for me," he said. "It was here where I won my first stage and so it's a very sentimental moment.
"I have to thank the guys for all their work today. It was a hard, windy day, and the guys rode hard for me all the way through. They were marvellous."
Cavendish, 26, who also won Wednesday's fifth stage in Cap Frehel, finished ahead of Alessandro Petacchi and his former teammat,e Andre Greipel, who were second and third, respectively.
Thor Hushovd retained the race leader's yellow jersey ahead of Cadel Evans.
Today's eighth stage is 189km in length, between Aigurande and Super-Besse Sancy.