Tour de France 2017: Marcel Kittel wins stage six, Froome retains yellow jersey
|Tour de France: 1-23 July|
|Coverage: Live text commentary of every stage on the BBC Sport website. BBC Radio coverage on 5 live sports extra and/or website from 14:30 BST on every stage.|
Britain's Chris Froome kept hold of the leader's yellow jersey, as Marcel Kittel won a sprint finish on the 216km sixth stage of the Tour de France.
It was the German's second stage win of this year's race, having also triumphed on stage two.
Quick-Step rider Kittel had a clear run through the middle in the final 200 metres to edge ahead of Arnaud Demare, with Andre Greipel third in Troyes.
Froome finished in the bunch and leads by 12 seconds from Geraint Thomas.
Fellow Briton Simon Yates retained sixth to keep the white jersey as the quickest rider under the age of 26.
It was a largely uneventful day for the riders chasing the overall win and they were all credited with the same time.
"These stages don't come along very often," said defending champion Froome, who is chasing a third successive win and fourth in five years.
"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."
How the stage unfolded
After the exertions of Wednesday, when Froome claimed third on a mountain-top finish to take the race leader's yellow jersey, the general classification riders were content to see a three-man breakaway go clear in the opening kilometre.
The trio of Vegard Stake Leangen (UAE Emirates), Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) and Frederick Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) quickly established a lead of more than three minutes but with temperatures reaching 37C they toiled on the road to Troyes.
The peloton timed the catch to perfection, inside the final 3km, as the sprinters' teams brought their riders to the fore.
Edvald Boasson Hagen, who would normally have been helping out Dimension Data team-mate Mark Cavendish, was given the freedom to sprint in the absence of the injured Manxman.
And the Norwegian chanced his arm from 700 metres out. However, he was easily caught.
French champion Demare tried squeezing down the right-hand side of the road, forcing his way through a gap and causing a Katusha-Alpecin rider to hesitate and then wave his arms in frustration.
His route to the line was not as straightforward as Kittel's, who came off Demare's wheel and rode unchallenged down the middle of the road.
"I am very proud of my team - they did a great job," said the German after his 11th Tour stage win.
"We brought ourselves at the front on the key moment and kept me there. I started from a great position, a bit from behind, to see where I can go."
When asked whether he had designs on winning the green points jersey, he replied: "For sure it is in my focus."
The points classification has been won for the past five years by Peter Sagan but the Slovak's disqualification for causing Cavendish's race-ending crash on stage four has left the competition wide open.
Kittel picked up 56 points on the stage, 50 for winning and six for being 10th at the intermediate sprint, to move to 143.
He is still 27 behind FDJ rider Demare, who collected 30 for finishing second and a further 13 at the intermediate sprint.
Britain's Daniel McLay of Fortuneo, who had three-top 10 stage finishes on his debut last year, was eighth in Troyes.
Friday's stage seven is a 213.5km race from Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges, which is again expected to end in a bunch sprint.
Stage six result:
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger/Quick-Step) 5hrs 05mins 34secs
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra/FDJ) ST
3. Andre Greipel (Ger/Lotto)
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/Katusha)
5. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra/Cofidis)
6. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/LottoNL)
7. Michael Matthews (Aus/Sunweb)
8. Daniel McLay (GB/Fortuneo)
9. Ruediger Selig (Ger/BORA)
10. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek)
General classification after stage six:
1. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) 23hrs 44mins 32secs
2. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) +12secs
3. Fabio Aru (Ita/Astana) +14secs
4. Daniel Martin (Ire/Quick-Step) +25secs
5. Richie Porte (Aus/BMC Racing) +39secs
6. Simon Yates (GB/Orica) +43secs
7. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +47secs
8. Alberto Contador (Spa/Trek) +52secs
9. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +54secs
10. Rafal Majka (Pol/Bora) +1min 01secs