Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen claimed his and Team Sky's maiden Tour de France victory in the race's sixth stage on Thursday.
Compatriot Thor Hushovd, of Garmin-Cervelo, finished third to retain the race leader's yellow jersey after 226.5km of racing from Dinan on the north coast to Lisieux in Normandy.
After the longest stage of the race, held in rainy conditions, Boasson Hagen proved the strongest from a bunch sprint that saw Australian Matt Goss finish second.
Hushovd, who took the yellow jersey when Garmin won the team time-trial last Sunday, retained his overall lead of 01sec on Australia's two-time runner-up Cadel Evans of BMC. Spain's defending champion Alberto Contador, who rides for Saxo Bank, remains 1:42 off the pace.
Friday's stage is a 218km ride over mainly flat terrain from Le Mans to Chateauroux.
Contador stiff but still in the race
Reigning champion Alberto Contador has brushed off the pain of two crashes in the fifth stage of the Tour de France to continue the defence of his yellow jersey on Thursday's sixth stage.
Saxo Bank ace Contador was one of around a dozen riders caught up in crashes on the tight, winding roads which were buffeted by strong winds on the way from Carhaix to Cap Frehel.
He suffered bruises and scrapes on his right shoulder and all down his right side, but escaped fractures that could have put a premature end to his campaign.
Fellow yellow jersey contender Robert Gesink was also lucky to escape disaster, although the Dutchman's team said it could be a delicate few days for the Dutch climbing ace.