METZ, France //Peter Sagan of Slovakia survived another day blighted by crashes at the Tour de France and claimed a third stage win by edging Andre Greipel of Germany in a sprint finish Friday.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland retained the yellow jersey for a seventh day after the 207.5-kilometre sixth stage from Epernay to Metz through the Champagne region.
"I don't know how many stages I can win," Sagan said. "Three is already good, maybe more."
Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, Frank Schleck of Luxembourg and Mark Cavendish of Britain were among the riders involved in a huge pile-up that split the peloton 26 kilometres from the finish.
The crash left riders and bikes all over the road but main contenders Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans escaped unscathed.
The peloton, led by sprint teams from Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto-Belisol, then caught four breakaway riders with just over a kilometre to go. Greipel, hoping to claim a third consecutive stage win, was the first to make his move in the final section but could not resist Sagan's surge.
"I was in a good position, I kept it and then nothing hampered my effort," Sagan said.
"I took Greipel's wheel and everything went according to plan."
Competing in his maiden Tour, Sagan was involved in a crash on Thursday but recovered quickly.
As spirited fans cheered the riders by lifting glasses and Champagne bottles on the side of the road, American rider David Zabriskie launched an attack just five kilometers after the start.
He was joined by Davide Malacarne of Italy, Romain Zingle of Belgium and Karsten Kroon of the Netherlands.
The four breakaway riders collaborated well and built a four-minute lead over the peloton before Cancellara's teammates moved to the front of the bunch to set up a faster tempo.
But a crash involving about 20 riders after 35 kilometres upset the chase and the escapee's advantage grew to more than six minutes after 42 kilometers. Among those caught in the crash were Rabobank team leader Robert Gesink, winner of the Tour of California this year, and former Spanish Vuelta champion Alejandro Valverde of Spain, but all the riders involved in the pile-up were able to get back on their bikes.
Another crash slowed down the peloton with 60 kilometres to go, with Greipel hitting the ground.
The race moves into the mountains on Saturday with a 199-kilometre ride to the ski resort of La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges.
The stage features the Tour's first category-one climb, a nasty six-kilometre ascent with the final few hundred metres at an average gradient of 14 per cent.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE