Kristoff and Bouhanni completed the top five in an all-star cast of a top ten.
Vesoul - Troyes
Tour de France - 6 July 2017
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An eleventh Tour stage win for this man, Marcel Kittel.
Demare rode perilously close to the barriers as he rounded Matthews before powering clear of Greipel to take second place.
Kittel in wonderland: The German powerhouse left it late before powering through the middle to take his second win of the race and draw level with compatriot Andre Greipel's tally of 11 Tour stage wins.
Victory for Marcel Kittel of Quick-Step Floors!
Sabatini, the lead out man for Kittel peels off, but there's no sign of the German - who is onb the wheel of Demare further back...
It's very messy and chaotic out there as the pack passes under the flamme rouge with Mark Renshaw setting the tempo for Dimension Data...
Now Cofidis bring their train alongside Dimension Data, with Katusha behind. It's a real fight now.
It's all over for our three leaders, who are swept up as Dimension Data come to the front. With Cavendish out injured, their man is now Edvald Boasson Hagen. Wouldn't that be a good story?
Just 10 seconds to go now for the three leaders - as numerous riders ping off the back of the peloton, their work for the day done. We also didn't mention Ben Swift of UAE Team Emirates - another rider to watch, and his team have not had to chase the break either, by dint of having a man in it.
So it's Katusha on the left, FDJ on the right, and Lotto Soudal and Trek-Segafredo (whose rider John Degenkolb I didn't mention earlier) in the middle. 5km and the gap is still 20 seconds.
Interestingly, while Quick-Step Floors have Vermote on the front, the rest of their team is quite far back and surrounding their man Kittel. They'll have to muscle up before the finish, which could be another hectic one.
Our three leaders have 10km to go but only 27 seconds to play with. Katusha have now swamped the front of the pack - as have BMC, to keep their man Richie Porte out of trouble.
Julien Vermote, the Belgian from Quick-Step Floors, leads the chase as the gap comes under a minute for the first time. Surely there's no other scenario than a bunch sprint - it just depends whether it's in the rain or not. The drops which were falling in Troyes have now ceased, so it should be a dry finish - but you never know.
So, we've talked about the big favourites today in Demare, Kittel, Greipel and Bouhanni, but who else could win today? Dutchman Dylen Groenewegen of LottoNL-Jumbo has been knocking on the door for a bit, while Michael Matthews (Team Subweb) finished second to Sagan in Longwi. Alexander Kristoff of Katusha-Alpecin hasn't won on the Tour for a few years but came second behind Demare in Vittel. There's also Sonny Colbrelli of Bahrain-Merida, who has been quite feisty, and Dan McLay of Fortuneo-Oscaro, who hasn't, but who was last year.
Cofidis have now sent a man on the front to fight for the right to launch Nacer Bouhanni at the finish. The Frenchman has yet to win a stage on his national Tour, but he's getting closer - and with Messrs Sagan and Cavendish absent, this could be his chance. The gap is 2:15 for the three leaders.
If Arnaud Demare wins today then he'll be the first French national champion to win multiple stages on a Tour since the great Laurent Fignon in 1984.
The gap has stretched out to 1:35 again. None of these riders have won a stage on a Grand Tour before, but Perrig Quemeneur came close in last year's Vuelta. The 33-year-old was third in stage 8 to La Camperona behind Russian winner Sergey Lagutin and compatriot Axel Domont.
We're hearing that the weather has really closed in at the finish in Troyes and there are threats of some sudden showers. That could spice things up - especially after this 30-degree heat the riders have had all day.
Frenchman Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie), Belgian Frederik Backaert of Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Norway's Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) have been out since the first kilometre but their gap is now just 1:15 after what has been a very long - and hot - day in the saddle.
The last time a Tour stage finished in Troyes was in 2000 with the victory going to Erik Zabel. The German - as was his wont - was in green that day, which bodes well for Arnaud Demare, the man currently leading the points classification.
Many apologies, the Fortuneo-Oscaro rider trying to bridge over is not Perichon, it's Laurent Pichon. Either way, his effort looks doomed to fail. In fact, he seems to have sat up on realising that he's not making any significant in-roads.
Pierre-Luc Perichon still rides chasse patate between the break and the peloton: the Frenchman is 1:05 down on the leading trio and 1:05 ahead of the pack.
We should add that Perrig Quemneneur picked up the solitary point over the summit of that last climb, to doubly his tally in the KOM polka dot jersey standings. There's no change at the top: Fabio Aru won't be caught today, or tomorrow. The Italian stage 5 winner has 10pts.
Perichon goes over the summit 1:50 down on the three leaders after his rampaging attack - he was really giving it some welly. It could well have merely been a ploy to get his sponsors on TV for a bit, on an otherwise quiet day in the race. The peloton crest over the top about 30 seconds down.
There's an attack from the peloton from Pierre-Luc Perichon of Fortuneo-Oscaro. God knows why - perhaps he was bored? Perhaps he feels he can reel in the leaders before the summit? Perhaps he forgot that there are three leaders in the first place?
The leaders are approaching the second of today's climbs, the Cat.4 Cote de la Colline Sainte-Germaine (3.1km at 4.4%). They have two minutes of a gap over the peloton, still led by Tiago Machado of Katusha-Alpecin.
Team Sky still have their entire team nestled in behind the various individuals representing the sprinters' teams on the front of the pack. Sky seems pretty impressive yesterday, with the likes of Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Nieve, Mikel Landa and Sergio Henao all there in support of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. That said, Henao seemed to crack early on La Planche des Belles Filles, passing the baton on to Thomas, who was in yellow, quite far from the summit. The Welshman didn't have the legs to stay with Froome, and so he lost time and the yellow jersey which, to be fair, Froome could have done without at this early stage. Indeed, the triple champion found himself quite isolated by the end - which bodes well for his rivals. If he does stay in yellow till Paris, then Sky will have led this race from start to finish - something not seen for 47 years.
When the peloton comes along, it's Arnaud Demare who takes the maximum 13 points for fourth place ahead of Michael Matthews, Andre Greipel, Sonny Colbrelli and Alexander Kristoff. Colbrelli was led out by a Bahrain-Merida team-mate but it looks like they midjudged where the line was, because they went very early, then faded fast once the others opened up their sprint. Interestingly, Marcel Kittel shows no interest in taking part - perhaps saving himself for the finish?
Backaert bounds clear to take the 20pts and cash prize for his Wanty-Groupe Gobert team at the intermediate sprint, ahead of Laengen, who contested it, and Quemeneur, who didn't.
The intermediate sprint is coming right up for the escapees - which means we'll see some non-umbrella-related action behind in the pack.
Portugal's Tiago Machago is now riding on the front of the pack to help pave the way for his Katusha-Alpecin team-mate Alexander Kristoff, who was runner-up behind Arnaud Demare in that controversial finish in Vittel when Peter Sagan was DQ'ed. And I kid you not - Machago has almost been taken out by an errant parasol. In fact, the whole peloton had a bit of a near miss there...
The temperature is up to 37 degrees Celsius out in the sun so it's no surprise to see numerous riders - including Nacer Bouhanni and Thibaut Pinot - dousing themselves in water from one of their bidons. The gap has gone up to just over three minutes for the three leaders following a relaxing of the pace back in the peloton following the feedzone.
The intermediate sprint today - which is coming up in about 20km - is in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, where, during the stage that finished in Troyes in 1960, the peloton stopped to meet General de Gaulle. No chance of that today, mind. Firstly - because there's the small matter of the intermediate sprint where every point may count in the battle for green. But primarily because the former French president Charles de Gaulle is no longer alive.
Quick-Step Floors' Matteo Trentin is currently riding off the back of the pack after a visit to the race doctor. He'll be a key man in Marcel Kittel's train later ahead of the sprint in Troyes. I tell you who was impressive yesterday - Trentin's team-mate Dan Martin, who was second on the stage and moved into fourth in the general classification. The Irishman is in the form of his life and on this showing must be seen as a rival to Chris Froome for the yellow jersey, especially with there only being one more time trial in this race - and a short one, too.
It happens every year - at least seven times - but here is a video of a spectator riding alongside the peloton in a field on a horse...
The peloton is now passing through the feed zone with a deficit of 2:30 on the three-man break. We have the intermediate sprint coming up on about 30km, then the second Cat.4 climb, then the run to the finish.
For his part, Cavendish had this reply...
Talking of Peter Sagan, the absent world champion today had some kind words for Mark Cavendish - the rider who went down and was forced out thanks to that crash two days ago. The Tour is over for them both for one year: Sagan because of his DQ and Cavendish because of his broken shoulder. Still trailing Eddy Merckx's record stage tally by four wins, it remains to be seen if Cav can become the most feted Tour stage winner of all time. Now 32, and not getting any faster, he's definitely up against it now that he's been ruled out for another year...
The gap is still around 2:30 for this three-man break, who have been out since the first kilometre today. They have next to no chance of staying out all the way to Troyes, mind. What will be interesting in Troyes is how regular the bunch sprint will be - what with the controversies of the finish at Vittel still in the mind. Following Sagan's expulsion, no sprinter will be able to get away with swerving or aggressive reactions in the sprints. But the question remains whether or not the race jury will be consistent and take a similar stance in the future.
Frederik Backaert, one of our three escapees, hands an ice pack back to his Wanty-Groupe Gobert team car. The flame-haired Belgian is riding in the day's break for the second time on this Tour after riding off the front for about 155km in Monday's stage three. He's a farmer by trade when not cycling, by the way.
FDJ have sent a man onto the front of the peloton, so we have a man apiece from them, Lotto Soudal and Quick-Step Floors - doing their bit before trying to launch their respective sprinters Arnaud Demare, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel to glory today in Troyes. Behind them, the Sky train of yellow jersey Chris Froome ride on what has so far been a very routine transitional stage on the Tour.
Frenchman Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) does the honours and leads the three-man break over the summit of the climb to pick up the solitary KOM point. The gap back to the peloton is 3:15. No change in the polka dot standings, which Fabio Aru leads with 10pts following his victory yesterday.
The break are approaching the Cat.4 Cote de Langres (1.3km at 6.3%). The walled town of Langres is home to the AOC-protected cheese of the same name, which is renowned for its pungency.
French veteran Sylvain Chavanel is riding his 17th consecutive Grand Tour - and this is his 335th day on the world's biggest bike race, overtaking Jens Voigt's 334 days between 1998 and 2014. Just two more riders ahead of him: Lucien van Impe (321 between 1969 and 1985) and Joop Zoetemelk (363 between 1970 and 1986).
The final jersey to bring you up to speed on is the white jersey for the youth classification. Last year it was won by Adam Yates, and Simon is going his best to keep it in the family: the Orica-Scott rider now leads the youth standings by 24 seconds over Pierre Latour (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and 41 seconds over Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates). Germany's Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) - who won the white jersey in the Criterium du Dauphine last month - is fourth at 46 seconds.
The break aren't getting much joy from the pack today: the gap, which was up at four minutes, is down to 3:30 now.
Our three escapees zip past the Eiffel Tower... unfortunately for them, it's not the real one; nor is the wine.
It's a mixed bag on the front of the pack, with individual riders from Lotto Soudal, Quick-Step Floors, Team Sky, Direct Energie and Astana in a line ahead of the Lotto Soudal train of Andre Greipel, who will be one of the favourites today. The gap is 4:10 for our three leaders - Backaert, Laengen and Quemeneur.
We have two Cat.4 climbs on the menu today so that's just two KOM points up for grabs in the battle for polka dots - so we won't see any change in the climbers' classification today. Fabio Aru rode into polka dots yesterday on the first Cat.1 climb of the race at La Planche des Belles Filles. The Italian has 10pts with his nearest rival being Dan Martin of Ireland on 8pts. Chris Froome has 6pts and Richie Porte has 4pts. Aru is guaranteed to keep the jersey tomorrow, too, because there is just the single Cat.4 climb there as well. But then there are 17pts up for grabs on Saturday, so expect the KOM battle to resume then, in stage 8. For now, here's a video of Aru and his team-mate Michael Valgren dancing on the Astana team bus...
The gap is still around the four-minute mark so it's clear that the peloton isn't too keen on giving these three riders too much leeway. So far, the two big rivals for green - Kittel and Demare - have one win apiece in this year's Tour. Here's a good video from our partners GCN about the German Kittel and his Quick-Step sprint train.
Today will see a big battle in the green jersey competition - which is wide open following the controversial disqualification of Peter Sagan, the man who has won the points classification for the past five years. There are 70pts up for grabs in total today, with the current man in green being Arnaud Demare of FDJ. The French national champion has 127pts with Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) his closest rival on 87pts. Then we have Michael Matthews on 73pts, Andre Greipel on 63pts and Alexander Kristoff on 48pts.
The break's advantage is up to 3:55 now after just over 15km or riding. How large will it get? Well, I reckon something like nine minutes is possible, but perhaps seven is more likely. We will see. The solo break of Backaert's Wanty team-mate Guillaume van Keirsbulck peaked at 13 and a half minute two days ago...
A reminder of the new-look general classification: Chris Froome leads team-mate Geraint Thomas by 12 seconds with the impressive Fabio Aru of Astana up to third place, a further two seconds back, after the first Tour stage win of his career. Ireland's Dan Martin was rewarded for his tenacity and attacking instinct yesterday by rising to fourth place at 25 seconds while Australia’s Richie Porte – who conceded four bonus seconds to Froome at the finish – now trails the Briton by 39 seconds in fifth.
The gap quickly grows to two minutes for these three escapees - none of whom are a threat on GC. The best placed is Quemeneur, the mini Thomas Voeckler. It's going to be a long day before we get some action...
There was an attack from the gun from Frenchman Perrig Quemeneur of Direct Energie. He's joined by Belgian Frederik Backaert of Wanty-Groupe Gobert - who you may remember from a break a few days ago - and also Norway's Vegard Stake Laengen.
They're off! Christian Prudhomme waves his flag and the remaining 193 riders in the race get this stage started...
The riders are currently rolling through the neutral zone ahead of today's stage - and it's going to be a hot day in the saddle, with the sun out and the mercury hitting 30 degrees Celsius. Here's what the riders have in store.
A thrilling opening day in the mountains on Wednesday saw Belgium's Philippe Gilbert attack on his birthday and Italy’s Fabio Aru join the illustrious list of riders to have won stages on all three of cycling’s Grand Tours. Aru is now one of seven riders in the 2017 Tour who can claim a similar hat-trick, joining Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Daniele Bennati, Michael Matthews, Nairo Quintana and the birthday boy Gilbert himself. There would be two more on the list had Mark Cavendish and Alejandro Valverde not both crashed out of the Tour.
Yesterday, Chris Froome took the Tour de France yellow jersey from Team Sky colleague Geraint Thomas as Fabio Aru claimed a superb victory in Stage 5 at La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges mountains. Italian national champion Aru of Team Astana made his decisive attack 2.5km from the finish of the 160.5km stage, winning the first of only three summit showdowns on the 2017 Tour by 16 seconds ahead of Ireland’s Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors). Defending champion Froome pipped former team-mate Richie Porte of BMC for third place to go into yellow at the expense of Welshman Thomas, who struggled with a series of attacks on the steep double-digit ramp in a thrilling finale.
Bonjour le Tour! Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage 6 of the Tour de France - and yet another sprint stage in excess of 200km... It's a 216km schlep from Vesoul to Troyes via two small Cat.4 climbs.