Kittel wins as Froome falls

Marcel Kittel won a third Tour de France stage in four attempts and Chris Froome suffered a crash as the 101st edition of the race resumed in northern France on Tuesday.

Marcel Kittel, centre right, crosses the finish line ahead of Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare (AP)
Marcel Kittel, centre right, crosses the finish line ahead of Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare (AP)

There was drama early on the 163.5km stage from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille as defending champion Froome went down after six kilometres.

And the finish produced a familiar winner as Kittel (Giant-Shimano) out-sprinted Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) to add to his wins in Harrogate and London.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was 24th to retain the race leader's yellow jersey.

Froome finished 42nd on the stage, slipping from fifth to seventh overall ahead of a challenging fifth stage which will commemorate 100 years since the start of World War One.

The Team Sky leader was nursing a wrist injury ahead of a stage which could shake up the general classification, the 155.5km route from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hinaut, which features nine cobbled sections totalling more than 15km.

The problem occurred when wheels touched in the peloton and Froome tumbled on to the left side he damaged during June's Criterium du Dauphine, suffering a grazed left hip and a sore wrist.

He swiftly found his feet and was taken back to the peloton by team-mates Bernhard Eisel and David Lopez following an assessment by the race doctor.

A splint for his wrist was also produced from the team car and Froome finished the day safely in the pack, but slipping behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in the overall rankings.

Andy Schleck, the 2010 winner, did not start due to a knee injury suffered in a crash on stage three from Cambridge to London on Monday, when Kittel won.

Another sprint stage was expected in Lille, but that did not put off an early two-man breakaway.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Luis Mate (Cofidis) established an advantage of more than three minutes after escaping in the first kilometres, but their lead was cut to 30 seconds with 60km to go.

Crosswinds had split the peloton after the surge for the intermediate sprint, but all the main protagonists were safely in the front group.

Mate punctured before being gobbled up by the peloton as Voeckler forged on alone, taking his lead over one minute once more.

Andre Greipel suffered a blow with 30km to go as three of his team-mates crashed, Lars Bak, Bart De Clercq and leadout man Greg Henderson.

Bak and De Clercq rejoined the peloton, but New Zealander Henderson abandoned with a knee injury.

Voeckler was swallowed up by the peloton with 17km to go and the sprinters' teams tried to take control in a technical finish.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep took control for much of the final 5km, but Giant-Shimano took over inside the final 2km.

Kristoff was first to launch his sprint, but despite appearing more laboured than on The Mall 24 hours earlier, Kittel triumphed once more.