CYCLING: Sensational sprint ace Peter Sagan won his third stage in six attempts at the Tour de France on another day of racing marred by crashes.
Points classification leader Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) triumphed today on the 207.5-kilometre route from Epernay to Metz, which was apparently a straightforward sprint stage, but once again there were spills aplenty, shaking up the general classification.
Three minor incidents delayed stage four and five winner Andre Greipel and a third 26km from home splintered the peloton, leaving Mark Cavendish among those cast adrift.
The incident meant the 27-year-old Team Sky rider's wait to draw level with Lance Armstrong and Andre Darrigade in fourth place in the all-time rankings of stage winners with 22 victories went on.
With a host of riders scattered across the road and in the verge, Cadel Evans' BMC Racing and Team Sky, led by Bradley Wiggins, avoided the carnage unfolding behind them and went in search of the day's four-man breakaway.
After catching the escapees with 1.3km to go, Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto-Belisol were prominent in the finale.
Greipel - seeking to become the 12th rider to win three straight Tour stages - attempted to break clear, but Sagan once again demonstrated his supreme talent to triumph.
Greipel was second, with Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) third, while Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) retained the race leader's yellow jersey by seven seconds from Wiggins.
Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), third in the Tour in 2011, were among those delayed by the large crash.
Drama came when the peloton was split into two by a major collision around 26km from the end, with riders and bikes scattered across the road and in ditches running parallel to the tarmac.
As those involved assessed the condition of their bodies and bikes, the survivors of the split forged on in pursuit of the breakaway.
Cavendish was among those held up, effectively seeing his chances of taking a 22nd Tour stage win ended for another day.