France's Nacer Bouhanni won stage six of the Vuelta a Espana in a reduced bunch in San Javier as Rudy Molard retained the race leader's red jersey.

Bouhanni (Cofidis) sprinted to victory at the end of the 155.7-kilometre stage from Huercal-Overa ahead of Holland's Danny van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Italy's Elia Viviani (QuickStep-Floors).

Molard (Groupama-FDJ) retained the race lead he had assumed on Wednesday by finishing among the pack of 50, but his team-mate Thibaut Pinot, an overall contender, lost one minute 44 seconds to his rivals.

Team Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland remains second, 41 seconds behind, with Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) of Germany third, seven seconds further back.

Nicolas Roche's 80th placing sees him drop to 26th on the Generals Classification for BMC Racing, while Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) is now 77th overall  after he crossed in 111th on Thursday's stage.

The split was caused by a crash with 25km remaining and crosswinds, leading to a frantic finish with Bouhanni emerging victorious.

A reduced bunch sprint is anticipated on Friday's 185.7km seventh stage, from Puerto-Lumbreras to Pozo Alcon.