Britain’s Mark Cavendish notched up his 24th career Tour de France stage win and first of this edition courtesy of a devastating sprint finish in Marseille.
The rolling terrain of the 228.5-km stage five from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Marseille was ideal for the breakaway.
Six riders tried their luck early on and at one point the group built up a lead of over 13 minutes.
The peloton left it late to react but managed to catch the front runners with the finish line fast approaching.
Special report:100 years of the Tour de France
The last of the escapees was swallowed up with 4 km to go, setting up the predicted mass sprint.
Chaos hit the final straight when a crash stopped much of the field from continuing on to the line.
But just ahead Cavendish – who is recovering from bronchitis – timed his sprint to perfection and blasted out in front to claim top honours for the first time in the 100th edition of cycling’s most prestigious race.
The Manx Missile’s acceleration left Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen in second place and Slovakian Peter Sagan in third.
Australian Simon Gerrans easily retained the leader’s yellow jersey ahead of Orica-GreenEdge teammates Daryl Impey and Michael Albasini.
Thursday’s stage six is a 176.5 kilometre ride to Montpellier.