A LATE attack by Italy's Vincenzo Nibali earned him victory on stage two of the Tour de France from York to Sheffield.

Nibali claimed the race leader's yellow jersey after coming out on top after a brutal and unpredictable day of racing over a testing 201-kilometre route.

The Astana rider, who won the 2013 Giro d'Italia, left his challenge late but timed it to perfection to clinch victory ahead of a host of leading contenders for the title.

Nibali took over the race leader's maillot jaune from stage one winner Marcel Kittel, of Giant-Shimano.

One man missing from the peloton today was Mark Cavendish.

The 29-year-old Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter did not start the second stage due to the shoulder injury caused when he tumbled to the tarmac in a frantic finale on stage one in Harrogate, his mother’s home town.

The 25-times Tour stage winner suffered a separated AC joint after colliding with Australian Simon Gerrans, of Orica-GreenEdge, as Marcel Kittel won the stage and with it the yellow jersey.

"I'm absolutely devastated," Cavendish said at York Racecourse.

"We kind of knew last night. We knew straight away. I normally bounce back from crashes quite well; I assessed my body yesterday and for the first time in my career I knew something was wrong.

"I was in pain last night. I held a bit of optimism that it was maybe just swelling and would go down overnight, but it's actually worse this morning. It's not possible to start from a medical point of view."