Andre Greipel
Greipel held off Mark Cavendish to claim the green jersey. Getty Images

Chris Froome's Tour de France hopes were given an unexpected boost as Mark Cavendish's victory bid was blown away in Holland.

The Team Sky rider took a huge 87 seconds out of two of his main rivals for the Yellow Jersey in Zelande after finishing in the first group.

Italy's defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana came home in the second group after being caught out by the crosswinds.

Froome now leads Alberto Contador by nine seconds with Nibali, who also suffered a puncture, one minute 21 seconds adrift, and Quintana 18 seconds further back.

But the second stage proved to be a massive disappointment for Cavendish who had targeted his first Tour win for two years.

The Manxman was favourite to triumph 12 months after seeing his hopes end in agony with his crash in Harrogate.

Cavendish was led to the line perfectly by his Etixx Quick-Step team, but he ran out of gas in the final metres and stood-up to finish fourth.

Germany's Andre Greipel won the stage as Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara took over the leader's Yellow Jersey for tomorrow's stage to Huy in Belgium.

Greipel became the first rider to win a stage 'in' the sea - albeit on the artificial island of Neeltje Jans which was built as part of a storm surge barrier.

And there was certainly a storm on Sunday as the sweltering 91 degree heat of Saturday's time trial around Utrecht was replaced by howling wind and rain.

That was just what the route organisers wished for when they planned the finish with the riders facing the last 25 miles exposed to the North Sea.

Fortunately for the riders, if not the organisers, the storm had passed by the time they reached the finish so avoiding any late carnage.

Cavendish made the first move for the line, but Greipel proved the stronger as he just pipped Slovakia's Peter Sagan who had punctured just a few miles earlier.

Nibali also needed a new tyre and went to the bounds of legality as he paced himself back to the second bunch by the car's of rivals teams.

But the damage had been inflicted earlier as he and Quintana lost pace with their two main rivals in the wind and rain.