- Peter Sagan wins third stage on his debut in the Tour de France
- Slovakian increases lead in the battle for the green jersey
- Fabian Cancellara holds on to race leader's yellow jersey
- Host of leading contenders lose time after mass pile-up
Slovakian sensation Peter Sagan made it a hat-trick of stage wins on his debut in the Tour de France as he sprinted to victory in Metz Friday.
The 22-year-old Sagan has extended his lead in the battle for the green points jersey after denying German Andre Greipel his third straight stage win.
But the 210-km sixth stage from Eperney was marred by a mass pile-up 26km from the finish which claimed a number of contenders for overall honors.
Race leader Fabian Cancellara, favorite Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans avoided the crash.
But Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda) and RadioShack star Frank Schleck all but saw their hopes ended along with French favorite Thomas Voeckler and Dutchman Robert Gesink.
Britain's Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) was also held up to leave Sagan to battle it out with a reluctant Greipel, who had gone down twice in earlier incidents to leave his confidence shaken.
Australia's Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) finished third.
The decisive crash came as the peloton chased a four-man breakaway on a straight but tight section of road.
Several riders were injured and behind it was chaos, with many competitors held up and looking for new bikes and wheels.
Hesjedal's teammate, David Millar of Britain, summed it up on his Twitter blog:
"Oh sweet jesus that was scary. Approx 70km/h pile up, like a tidal wave of debris smashing towards us, could do nothing but brake and pray."
A whittled down peloton of eventually caught the frontrunners of David Zabriskie (Garmin), Davide Malacarne (Europcar), Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank) and Romain Zingle (Cofidis), with Sagan going on to show his undoubted class at the finish.