Fano - German sprinter Marcel Kittel claimed his second stage win in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race, edging triple world champion Peter Sagan in a crash-marred sixth stage to Fano on Monday.
Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski holds the overall race leader's blue jersey in 'The Race between Two Seas' ahead of Italian Damiano Caruso going into Tuesday's final stage, a time-trial.
The 153km ride from Numana was marked by a mass crash eight kilometres from the finish provoked by Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria of Quick Step, which forced Slovak Sagan (BORA), who was on his wheel, to take evasive action.
The Colombian rider collided with Argentine teammate Maximiliano Richeze's wheel and fell dragging a group of riders with him.
Sagan did a slalom and came out unscathed but had to work to catch the peloton, pulling ahead by jumping the curb of a roundabout, but could not match the power of Kittel with the 29-year-old Katusha rider crossing first with Sagan again second as he was on Sunday behind Adam Yates at Filottrano.
"The guys did a great job and I'm proud of the team," said Kittel, who also won Thursday's second stage at Follonica.
"We controlled the race and I'm really happy to be able to win for the team."
"I'm sorry for Gaviria's fall but we remained focused, I am proud of this team."
Richeze finished third with Gaviria suffering a broken left hand which requires surgery and could sideline him for a month, his team said later.
Before the crash the Sky team, led by leader Chris Froome, worked hard to bring Geraint Thomas, who had been delayed by a puncture with 10km to go, back into the race.
Welsh rider Thomas is overall fourth, 29 seconds behind team-mate Kwiatkowski who has a three-second lead on Italian Caruso of BMC Racing with Spaniard Mikel Landa of Movistar 23 seconds off the pace in third.
"I think we have to be happy with how the stage went as it was nervous, a very hectic final and we are still leading the race," said Kwiatkowski, who will aim to hold off specialist Caruso, in the final stage 10km time-trial in San Benedetto del Tronto, a resort on the Adriatic coast.
"Caruso is such a good time triallist and he is racing in his home, Italy," said Kwiatkowski.
"It's going to be difficult to fight against him.
"I will be really happy if Geraint can take the overall win, what's important is that the team wins, but he lost some time on the mountain finish (stage four)."
Results from the 153km sixth and penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico from Numana and Fano on Monday:
1. Marcel Kittel (GER/KAT) 3hr 49min 54sec, 2. Peter Sagan (SVK/BOR) same time, 3. Maximiliano Richeze (ARG/QST) s.t, 4. Sacha Modolo (ITA/EFD) s.t, 5. Zdenek Stybar (CZE/QST) s.t, 6. Jens Debusschere (BEL/LOT) s.t, 7. Marco Canola (ITA/NIP) s.t, 8. Simone Consonni (ITA/EAU) s.t, 9. Eduard-Michael Grosu (ROM/NIP) s.t, 10. Rick Zabel (GER/KAT) s.t
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL/Sky) 25hr 21min 22sec, 2. Damiano Caruso (ITA/BMC) at 03sec, 3. Mikel Landa (ESP/MOV) 23, 4. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 29, 5. Rigoberto Uran (COL/EFD) 34, 6. Adam Yates (GBR/MIT) 36, 7. Davide Formolo (ITA/BOR) 37, 8. Tiesj Benoot (BEL/LOT) 39, 9. George Bennett (NZL/LNL) 41, 10. Jaime Roson (ESP/MOV) 47