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Tour de France takes bloody toll

Belgium's Tiesj Benoot crosses the finish line with blood running down his face after crashing during the fourth stage of the Tour de France. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Belgium's Tiesj Benoot crosses the finish line with blood running down his face after crashing during the fourth stage of the Tour de France. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

A TOUR de France rider was left with blood all over his face and helmet after finishing the fourth stage of the race.

Belgium's Tiesj Benoot crossed the line with red streaming from his head, following a nasty pile-up with 4.8 kilometres to go into Sarzeau.

The Lotto-Soudal ace was one of several riders who wanted to get to the finish line unscathed, but the peloton collapsed and the 24-year-old was one of the victims.

In a release after the day's stage Lotto-Soudal listed the injuries Benoot sustained during the horrific crash.

"Tiesj Benoot has second-degree dislocation of AC joint in right shoulder; bruised ribs, right shoulder blade and left wrist; abrasions on hips, back, arms, legs; cuts to right eyebrow and back of head. Will decide tomorrow if he can continue," the release read.

AG2R's Axel Domont was also seen sprawled on the tarmac as Colombian Fernando Gaviria went on to win the sprint ahead of Peter Sagan.

There have been incidents in each stage of the Tour so far, with Chris Froome flying off the road during the first stage.

And there was a crash during the second leg as well, when Gaviria - wearing the Yellow Jersey - went down along with a dozen other riders on the final bend.

Unfortunately for Domont, it ended his Tour de France campaign, with the Frenchman suffering a broken collarbone and a head trauma.

"Get well and get back soon Champion," his team tweeted.

Mark Cavendish was in with the frontrunners to win the stage, but as has been the case so far this Tour, the sprint ace's legs were not up to scratch this time.

Gaviria edged Sagan at the finish line to take his second stage win in his first participation at cycling's greatest race.

The 23-year-old had already bettered Sagan in a sprint to take the opening stage, amid rising expectations since his four stage victories at last year's Giro d'Italia.

Sagan hit back by winning Stage 2 in an uphill sprint after Gaviria had fallen in a group pileup on the final corner.

Horror scenes from the crash during Stage 4.
Horror scenes from the crash during Stage 4.

Tuesday night's (AEST) flat leg with its four-kilometer finish - the longest straightaway to conclude a leg on this Tour was perfect terrain for the budding rivals to break the tie.

Sagan was closing fast and seemed to be on pace to overtake him just when Gaviria hit the line.

"He is faster than me," said Sagan, the three-time defending world champion who excels in finishes on slight ascents.

"We will see. Maybe I will wait for some mistake (to beat him). And maybe we will see the next days on the climbs. Every stage is different, every sprint is different."

Defending champion Chris Froome of Sky, who remained 55 seconds back due to his fall in Stage 1, finished safely in the pack with leader Greg Van Avermaet.

Froome, who was cleared of doping allegations last week by the International Cycling Union, has been jeered by some sceptical fans since arriving in France.

During Tuesday's stage, several syringes were seen alongside the course route in apparent protest by anti-Froome spectators.

Topics:  cycling richie porte tiesj benoot tour de france