The early break spent a long afternoon out front on the rain-soaked stage, and the conditions were not without consequences, as a number of riders hit the deck rolling through a roundabout on slippery roads. Team Sky's Chris Froome and AG2R's Romain Bardet were among the fallers, but both eventually rejoined the bunch.
Cannondale-Drapac's Taylor Phinney and Wanty-Groupe Gobert's Yoann Offredo, the last two survivors of the breakaway, fended off the peloton until the closing kilometres, but they were ultimately swept up as the sprint trains upped the pace. Bora-Hansgrohe led the way into the sprint but the last lead-out man pulled off too early for Peter Sagan to start his move. Opting against starting too early, the world road champion let others come past and then found himself boxed in with little hope of contesting the win.
Kittel powered to the front in the final 100 metres and none of his rivals came particularly close to shutting him down. FDJ's Arnaud Démare settled for runner-up honours with Lotto-Soudal's André Greipel taking third.
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas finished safely to retain his spot atop the overall leaderboard.
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