Pre-stage favourite and world road champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) has become the new Tour de France race leader after besting Etixx-QuickStep's Julian Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
However, the race was nearly stolen by Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), the last man of an initial four-man break, who was overhauled by the peloton just 500 metres from the end of the 183km stage from Saint-Lô to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin.
The catch came so late that Sagan was surprised he had won the stage, believing there were still two men ahead.
"I thought there were still two guys at the front," Sagan said. "And then I finished first and I didn't know that, and then everybody was saying I had won.
"Julian Alaphilippe was very close to me at the end but I beat him. I'm in yellow for the first time. It's a very nice jersey. This is something special for sure.”
Porte's chances blown?
While most of the the overall contenders survived intact, the difficult stage was not without its casualities.
Chief amongst these was Richie Porte (BMC) who punctured with 4.5km to go just as the race fired up. Porte suffered through a slow wheel change, losing 1min 45sec to the eventual winner. He now has a mountain of work to do if he is to stay in contention for the win.
Two-time winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) also lost time as he struggled with the aftereffects of a crash on Stage 1 and a second crash today, losing 45 seconds to chief rivals Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
As it happened
The break of the day formed almost as soon as the bunch rolled out from the neutral zone, with polka dot jersey holder Paul Voss and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Vegard Breen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) and Stuyven quickly rolling to a maximum advantage of 5min 30sec after 20km.
Stage 1 winner and race leader Mark Cavendish's Dimension Data team controlled the break, another crash involving Contador occurred at the 60km mark. The break lost Benedetti with 25km to go as Voss, Breen and Stuyven forged ahead before the latter attacked from 8.5km out from before the finish.
Stuyven was later named the most aggressive rider of the day and also claimed the polka dot jersey after leading the race over the côte de la Glacerie with 1.5km to go. His desperate efforts to defeat the peloton came to an end one kilometre later as he was swamped by Sagan, Alaphilippe, Valverde and the rest of the field.
In taking the stage and race lead, Sagan became the first reigning world champion to win a stage since Cavendish in 2012.