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LE HAVRE, France (Reuters) - There's never a dull moment on the Tour de France and Thursday's Stage Six was no exception as leader Tony Martin broke his collarbone in a crash, sending 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali and others tumbling.
After a few days of crashes and nervous racing the peloton took it relatively easy on the Normandy coastline until the last kilometre when Garman Martin lost his balance and, almost like dominos, several leading contenders followed suit.
"Confirmed broken collarbone for Tony Martin," his Etixx-Quick Step team said, without giving any clues as to whether he would race in Friday's seventh stage.
It seems highly unlikely Martin will be at the start in Livarot. A team spokesman told Reuters the issue would be discussed at their hotel in the evening.
Among the casualties were Nibali, Colombian Nairo Quintana and American Tejay van Garderen as Martin's team mate, Zdenek Stybar of the Czech Republic, sprinted to victory in the 191.5-km leg from Abbeville to Le Havre.
Nibali had bruises on his knee while Quintana had blood on his arm.
Quintana's Movistar team mate Alejandro Valverde also crashed earlier in the stage, hurting his leg and buttocks. Both will continue the race, the team said.
Slovakian Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was second in the stage and France's Bryan Coquard (Europcar) took third place.
Regulations state that on a flat stage a rider held up in an incident in the final 3-km is credited with the same time as the winner, meaning Martin retained the overall lead after being pushed by two team mates to the finish line.
"I was unlucky. I don't even remember how I went down. I touched the rear wheel of the rider in front of me (Coquard) but it's the Tour, luck and bad luck are always close," Martin told reporters.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara, who held the overall leader's yellow jersey earlier in the event, had to pull out of the race because of a back injury after crashing on Monday.
Martin leads 2013 champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) of Britain by 12 seconds and Van Garderen (BMC Racing) by 25.
Froome narrowly escaped the carnage on Thursday, managing to keep his balance while Nibali leaned on him as he fell.
Spain's Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) is eighth, 48 seconds behind, while Nibali (Astana) is 13th and 1:50 adrift. Quintana lies 17th, 2:08 off the pace.
"I don't know why this happened like this 500 metres from the line. I'm ok, my shoulder and my leg touched the ground," said Nibali.
Editing by Tony Jimenez