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Returning from a doping ban after testing positive on the 2010 Tour — a title he has been stripped of — the Spaniard grimaced in pain as he crossed the line with his clothing torn and his left shoulder grazed.
"I am fine, I'm OK," Contador said through a translator. "Someone didn't brake in front of me and then there was a crash. I will have to rest now."
As the stage drew to an end, former champion Andy Schleck's RadioShack team pushed to the front as a side wind made it harder for riders, then Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff team pushed up as the sinewy roads started to thin out.
Johnny Hoogerland, who was sent flying off his bike and sustained cuts to his legs on the 2011 Tour after being hit by a Tour car, was sent tumbling after hitting a crash barrier near the end. He was helped back onto his bike and able to continue.
Last year's Giro d'Italia winner, Ryder Hesjedal, was caught in another crash moments later but continued.
With the finish line in sight, and as the nerves jangled, riders were sent flying from their bikes, throwing the stage into chaos.
"It was just a complete disaster," Greipel said.
It proved to be an eventful day from the outset. Before the stage started, French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron met with a delegation of riders unhappy about pre-race media reports that they thought focused too heavily on doping stories.
The day before, Lance Armstrong hogged headlines when he told Le Monde he couldn't have won his seven Tours without doping.
Once the race began, tour favorite Chris Froome stopped to get a new rear wheel early on and stopped for a second time to get a new bike.
Sunday's second stage is shorter but features four climbs along the 97-mile ride from Bastia to Ajaccio.
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