Team Sky's problems continued on Thursday as Spaniard Xabier Zandio joined Chris Froome in exiting the Tour de France.

Defending champion Froome pulled out on Wednesday's fifth stage due to the pain caused by three crashes in two days.

The 194-kilometre sixth stage from Arras to Reims took place on wet roads and Zandio was caught up in a crash after 79km and received lengthy medical attention before withdrawing.

It means Richie Porte, who inherited the leadership of Team Sky from Froome, now has just six team-mates to call upon with the race less than a week old.

Egor Silin (Katusha) also quit after the large crash.

Zandio appeared to have a shoulder injury.

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali called a temporary truce as the peloton slowed to allow the riders embroiled in the crash who were able to continue to rejoin the main bunch.

The accident happened as the speed was increasing in preparation for the intermediate sprint.

The Giant-Shimano team of Marcel Kittel - winner of stages one, three and four - were at the front of the peloton and agreed to Nibali's request to slow.

If Kittel wins on Thursday he will already be halfway to equalling the record for most stage wins in a single Tour.

Crosswinds were possible on the route through Champagne country.

The day's four-man breakaway of Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling), Thomas Leezer (Belkin), Luis Mate (Cofidis) and Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Seche Environnemen) led by around one minute 30 seconds with 65km to go.

Alberto Contador then lost a key domestique as Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo) abandoned after crashing.