Tour de France 2014: Andre Greipel wins stage six
Andre Greipel sprinted to victory in Reims to win stage six of the Tour de France in wet and windy conditions.
The German Lotto-Belisol rider raced clear in the final 250m of the 194km race to beat Katusha's Alexander Kristoff and Samuel Dumoulin of AG2R.
There was no change in the general classification, with Astana's Vincenzo Nibali remaining the overall leader.
However, many riders again struggled on the wet roads and Team Sky's Xabier Zandio quit the race after a crash.
"The gentle giant deserves the win. His team deserve it for the amount of work they've done in this first week. There will have been a tremendous amount of pressure put on him from his team to deliver. The racing lit up in the final few kilometres with the crosswinds affecting the racing, although not as much as we thought it might."
The Spaniard was one of several riders to go down and becomes the second Sky rider, after defending champion Chris Froome, who crashed out on Wednesday, to abandon the race.
Richie Porte, Team Sky's new leader, crossed the line among the leading pack to remain one minute, 54 seconds adrift of Nibali.
He said: "It was stressful with crosswinds and slippery roads. It sucks to lose Zandio but we tick another day off."
Sky were not the only team to lose a rider. Alberto Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo team-mate Jesus Hernandez was forced to quit the race after crashing.
Contador is one of the favourites to win the race but will now be without one of his key helpers in the mountain stages. The Spaniard, who has won the Tour de France twice before, remains two minutes, 37 seconds adrift of race leader and rival Nibali.
Italian Nibali leads the overall standings by two seconds from his Danish team-mate Jakob Fuglsang, with Slovakia's Peter Sagan in third, 44 seconds back.
What awaits in stage seven
"A breakaway might go all the way to the finish or there may be a significant attack on the final categorised climb which could prove decisive. A team like Cannondale could keep the pace high, hoping to distance sprinters to set up the stage win and points in the race for the green points jersey for their man Peter Sagan."
Sagan was fifth and is yet to finish outside the top five in the opening six stages and as a consequence, he leads the green points jersey - a competition he has won in each of the last two editions of the race.
He was unable to make an impression in the sprint finish though, coming in behind Greipel, who picked up his first stage win of this year's race and sixth in total.
"It was a nervous day and I'm happy with my team," said the 31-year-old. "They kept me near the front especially with the sidewinds in the final 13km to keep me in a good place.
"I had a good wheel with Mark Renshaw but with 250m to go I said to myself 'I go full now and whatever happens happens'.
"There was a lot of pressure on us but we had a good answer today."
Stage six result:
1. Andre Greipel (Ger/Lotto-Belisol) 4hrs 11 mins, 39 secs
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/Katusha) same time
3. Samuel Dumoulin (Fran/AG2R)
4. Mark Renshaw (Aus/Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
5. Peter Sagan (Svk/Cannondale)
6. Romain Feillu (Fra/Bretagne-Seche)
7. Tom Veelers (Ned/Giant-Shimano)
8. Bryan Coquard (Fra/Europcar)
9. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel/Belkin)
10. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra/IAM Cycling)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Astana) 24hrs 38mins 25secs
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +2secs
3. Peter Sagan (Svk/Cannondale) +44secs
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol/Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) +50secs
5. Fabian Cancellara (Swi/Trek) +1min 17secs
6. Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel/Lotto-Belisol) +1min 45secs
7. Tony Gallopin (Fra/Lotto-Belisol) Same time
8. Richie Porte (Aus/Team Sky) +1min 54secs
9. Andrew Talansky (US/Garmin-Sharp) +2mins 05secs
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +2mins 11secs