Andre Greipel of Germany won the sixth stage of the Tour de France in a sprint as the pack entered Champagne country, and Vincenzo Nibali of Italy retained the yellow jersey.
The German champion collected his sixth career Tour stage victory by outpacing Norway's Alexander Kristoff in second and France's Samuel Dumoulin in third at the end of the 194km ride from Arras to Reims.
The peloton faced intermittent drizzle over the mostly flat course, which was well suited for sprinters.
The top standings didn't change, as most of the contenders for victory in the three-week race trailed close behind the muscular Greipel. He was not a challenger for the overall title; like many sprinters, he does not fare well on the climbs that are crucial to winning in Paris.
Overall, Nibali has a two-second lead over teammate Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark. Peter Sagan of Slovakia was third, 44 seconds back. Two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador, a day after losing about two-and-a-half minutes to Nibali, was dealt another setback on Thursday: His Saxo-Tinkoff teammate Jesus Hernandez dropped out after a crash.
The race got its biggest surprise on Wednesday after defending champion Chris Froome, carrying from an injured wrist, dropped out of the race after crashing twice.