- Tour de France
Team Sky suffer further blow as Greipel wins stage six
Xabier Zandio became the second Team Sky rider to abandon the Tour de France in as many days after suffering a collarbone injury during Thursday's stage six, which was won in a sprint finish by Andre Greipel.
Zandio follows defending champion Chris Froome, who retired on Wednesday after suffering further crashes, in abandoning the race which means Team Sky are left with just seven riders.
Team Saxo-Tinkoff were also dealt a blow as Jesus Hernandez crashed out and will not return for stage seven. Hernandez would have been a key aid to team-mate Alberto Contador, one of the race favourites, in the mountain stages.
Victory for Greipel, the Lotto-Belisol's sprint specialist, earned him his first stage win of this year's edition of the race. Vincenzo Nibali retained his overall race lead and will keep the yellow jersey for stage seven as he finished safely alongside Contador and Sky's Richie Porte in the lead group. Porte trails Nibali in the race for yellow by one minute 54 seconds.
Peter Sagan finished fifth to keep hold of the green jersey.
Rain welcomed the riders once again as they began the 194 kilometre stage between Arras and Reims, although unlike the previous stage there were no cobbles to deal with.
Giant-Shimano positioned their riders early as Marcel Kittel, looking for his fourth stage win in six, took up his place in the peloton. Four made the early breakaway and quickly established a three-minute lead.
Luis Angel Mate claimed the only point available in the race for King of the Mountains; his Cofidis team-mate Cyril Lemoine currently wears the polka-dot jersey.
However, drama ensued in the peloton as Zandio was left on the deck following a big crash in the middle of the pack. French champion Arnaud Demare also went down.
Mark Renshaw took the points in the intermediate sprint ahead of Sagan (Belkin's Tom Leezer, one of the breakaways, had earlier taken the 20 points on offer) but Sagan suffered a nasty fall around 60km from the line.
The Cannondale rider had to drop back to the medical car and soon fell adrift of the peloton.
With 25km left, the crosswinds came again and soon the breakaway quartet were gobbled up by the peloton. Bretagne-Seche's Arnaud Gerard and Leezer dropped back but Mate and IAM's Jerome Pineau attempted a second attack to win the stage outright.
Both were caught inside the 12km mark as the Omega-Pharma QuickStep team, minus Mark Cavendish who withdrew after the opening stage, upped the pace of the peloton while Nibali struggled to keep in the lead group.
Kittel would play no further part in the sprint finish as he was dropped from the lead group with a puncture in the final kilometre, but Michal Kwaitkowski, wearing the young rider's white jersey, made a breakaway for the line.
However, he was caught in the final metres as the brilliant Greipel, known for his sprint finishes, held off the challenge before crossing the white paint.
Stage six result:
1. Andre Greipel (Germany/Lotto-Belisol) 4hr 11 min, 39 secs
2. Alexander Kristoff (Norway/Katusha) Same time
3. Samuel Dumoulin (France/AG2R)
4. Mark Renshaw (Australia/Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
5. Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Cannondale)
6. Romain Feillu (Frace/Bretagne-Seche)
7. Tom Veelers (Netherlands/Giant-Shimano)
8. Bryan Coquard (France/Europcar)
9. Sep Vanmarcke (Belgium/Belkin)
10. Sylvain Chavanel (France/IAM Cycling)
General Classification after stage six:
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Astana) 24hr 38min 25secs
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +2sec
3. Peter Sagan (Slovakia/Cannondale) +44sec
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland/Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) +50sec
5. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland/Trek) +1min 17sec
6. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium/Lotto-Belisol) +1min 45sec
7. Tony Gallopin (France/Lotto-Belisol) Same time
8. Richie Porte (Australia/Team Sky) +1min 54sec
9. Andrew Talansky (USA/Garmin-Sharp) +2min 05sec
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +2min 11sec