Marcel Kittel won a third Tour de France stage in four attempts and Chris Froome suffered a crash as the 101st edition of the race resumed in northern France.

There was drama early on the 163.5km stage from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille as defending champion Froome went down after 6km.

The finish produced a familiar winner as Kittel (Giant-Shimano) out-sprinted Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) to add to his wins in Harrogate and London.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was 24th to retain the race leader's yellow jersey.

Ireland's Nicolas Roche finished in 50th place, but was given the same time as Kittel.

The Tinkoff-Saxo rider remains 25th in the general classification.

Froome finished 42nd on the stage, slipping from fifth to seventh overall ahead of a challenging fifth stage, which will commemorate 100 years since the start of WW1.

The Team Sky leader was left nursing a wrist injury after wheels touched in the peloton and he tumbled on to his left side, suffering torn shorts and a grazed hip.

He swiftly found his feet and was taken back to the peloton by team-mates Bernhard Eisel and David Lopez following an assessment by the race doctor.

A splint for his wrist was also produced from the team car and Froome finished the day safely in the pack.

Andy Schleck, the 2010 winner, did not start due to a knee injury suffered in a crash on stage three from Cambridge to London, when Kittel won.

Another sprint stage was expected in Lille, but that did not put off an early two-man breakaway.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Luis Mate (Cofidis) established an advantage of more than three minutes after escaping in the first kilometres, but their lead was cut to 30 seconds with 60km to go.

Crosswinds had split the peloton after the surge for the intermediate sprint, but all the main protagonists were safely in the front group.

Mate punctured before being gobbled up by the peloton as Voeckler forged on alone, taking his lead over one minute once more.

Andre Greipel suffered a blow with 30km to go as three of his team-mates crashed, Lars Bak, Bart De Clercq and lead-out man Greg Henderson.

Bak and De Clercq rejoined the peloton, but New Zealander Henderson abandoned with a knee injury.

Voeckler was swallowed up by the peloton with 17km to go and the sprinters' teams tried to take control in a technical finish.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep took control for much of the final 5km, but Giant-Shimano took over inside the final 2km.

Kristoff was first to launch his sprint, but despite appearing more laboured than on The Mall 24 hours earlier, Kittel triumphed once more.

Tomorrow's stage is a 155.5km route from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hinaut and features nine cobbled sections totalling more than 15km.