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Marcel Kittel has abandoned the Tour de France while wearing the points leader's green jersey.

The German crashed heavily early on the mountainous 183 kilometre stage from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier, and climbed off his bike at the top of the Col de la Croix Fer.

Kittel began the day with a 29-point lead over Australian Michael Matthews in the points classification, but had already seen that cut to just nine as his Team Sunweb rival won the day's intermediate sprint.

Quick-Step Floors' Kittel was caught in a crash that also brought down current king of the mountains Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) and British national champion Steve Cummings of Team Dimension Data, who both recovered.

The points classification had been won by world champion Peter Sagan in each of the previous five Tours but the Slovakian was disqualified at the end of stage four to leave the competition open this year.

Kittel was not alone in abandoning on one of the toughest days of the entire Tour.

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, a contender in previous years, also quit to leave his FDJ team with just three of their nine original riders left in the race.

British sprinter Dan McLay of Fortuneo-Oscaro abandoned on the Col du Telegraphe, passing the lantern rouge as last man in the Tour to Team Sky's Luke Rowe