Marcel Kittel won stage six of the Tour de France in Troyes as Chris Froome stayed safe in the yellow jersey.
Quick-Step Floors’ Kittel beat Frenchman Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and fellow German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) in a sprint finish at the end of the 216-kilometre stage from Vesoul.
Team Sky’s Froome had a relatively stress-free first day in the yellow jersey, with the only threat that came his way being a runaway parasol midway through the stage.
The day began with a three-man break heading clear as Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie), Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) were allowed to build a lead of a little over four minutes.
But it proved a fairly sedate ride through Champagne country, with the main incident of note before the final kilometres being a stray parasol which blew into the road close to the front of the peloton and the Team Sky train.
Somehow it failed to fell any riders as it rolled through the pack close to Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, celebrated as the long-time home of the late former French president Charles de Gaulle.
Team Sky and Froome were spared the work of leading the peloton once again as the sprint teams took responsibility for chasing down the breakaway, finally making the catch inside the last three kilometres.
Froome continues to lead the Tour by 12 seconds from team-mate Geraint Thomas, with Astana’s Italian national champion Fabio Aru in third, 14 seconds off yellow.
“These stages don’t come along very often,” Froome said.
“This was definitely one of the most relaxed days I’ve ever done on the Tour de France.
“I’ve always dealt with the heat I’d say better than most people. It’s the cold I normally have a problem with.”
With world champion Peter Sagan’s disqualification from the Tour for crashing with Mark Cavendish on stage four still fresh in the memory, Demare forced his way through a narrow gap against the barriers on the approach to the line.
Alexander Kristoff of Katusha-Alpecin took fourth place in the ahead of Cofidis’ Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni, while Britain’s Dan McLay of Fortuneo-Oscaro came home in eighth place.mfl
It is a second stage win of this Tour and 11th overall for Kittel, who also raised his arms at the end of stage two in Liege.
“I was really confident with my team and also really confident in myself,” Kittel said. “I knew that I couldn’t wait until the last bend with 250 metres to go.
“I tried to follow Demare and then I broke free one second ahead of the other sprinters and that gave me the chance.”
Although Demare missed out on adding to his stage-four win, he retains the green jersey as the leader of the points classification. He is 27 points ahea d of Kittel, with Team Sunweb’s Michael Matthews in third, 74 points back.
Final leading positions after Stage 6 (Visoul – Troyes 216 km): 1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) 5hrs 05mins 34secs, 2 Arnaud Demare (Fra), 3 Andre Greipel (Ger), 4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor), 5 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra), 6 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned), 7 Michael Matthews (Aus), 8 Daniel McLay (Gbr), 9 Rudiger Selig (Ger), 10 John Degenkolb (Ger), 11 Dion Smith (Nzl), 12 Adrien Petit (Fra), 13 Edvald Hagen (Nor), 14 Marco Haller (Aut), 15 Rick Zabel (Ger), 16 Taylor Phinney (USA), 17 Michael Schar (Swi), 18 Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel), 19 Jay McCarthy (Aus), 20 Rafal Majka (Pol) all at the same time
General Classification after Stage 6: 1 Christopher Froome (Gbr) Team Sky 23hrs 44mins 33secs, 2 Geraint Thomas (Gbr) Team Sky at 12secs, 3 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team at 14secs, 4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors at 25secs, 5 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 39secs, 6 Simon Yates (Gbr) Orica-Scott at 43secs, 7 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 47secs, 8 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 52secs, 9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team at 54secs, 10 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 01mins 01secs, 11 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac at the same time, 12 Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale at 01mins 07secs, 13 Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates at 01mins 24secs, 14 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 01mins 29secs, 15 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team at 01mins 33secs, 16 Mikel Landa (Spa) Team Sky at 01mins 47secs, 17 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 01mins 51secs, 18 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky at 01mins 56secs, 19 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 01mins 57secs, 20 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data at 02mins 00secs