TOURS, France — Germany's Marcel Kittel overtook
Cavendish moved in front but Kittel gained ground and just beat him to the line to earn his second stage win in three days and third of this race.
About 20 riders were caught in a crash near the end, with some stuck under the bikes of others as wheels and frames jutted out at all angles.
Froome still leads Alejandro Valverde by 3 minutes, 25 seconds. The British rider is 3:54 ahead of two-time former champion
Cavendish, the Tour's best sprinter two years ago, has had a frustrating race. The British sprinter looked set to clinch his 25th career stage win of the Tour after his Omega Pharma QuickStep teammate
Looking to keep their riders near the front of the main pack and limit the risk of them being caught in crashes, Froome's Sky and Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff squads took turns pushing from the front.
Saxo-Tinkoff tried to pull away with about 3 miles left, but Ian Stannard helped Froome catch them.