TALAVERA DE LA REINA, Spain — German cyclist Marcel Kittel won the seventh stage of the Tour of Spain on Friday in a finish marred by a huge crash that sent several top riders tumbling to the tarmac.
America's Tyler Farrar of the Garmin team was among the riders who tumbled a few metres from the line in a furious street sprint after a 183km ride from from Almaden to Talavera de la Reina.
French rider Sylvain Chavanel retained the overall leader's red jersey for a fourth day.
Just behind Kittel, 23, of the Skil team, Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan, 21, winner of the sixth stage, rolled in second for Liquigas with Spaniard Oscar Freire third, after they narrowly escaped the pile-up.
Among those felled in the crash were last year's Tour of Spain winner, Italian Vincenzo Nibali, Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez and Michele Scarponi of Italy -- each among the favourites to win this year's Vuelta.
"I let myself relax a bit at the finish and that cost me dear," said Rodriguez afterwards. "My wrists are hurting because I must have braked sharply. But overall I am alright."
The fallers picked themselves up and crossed the line, losing no time on the clock under race rules since the crash occurred in the stage's last kilometre.
A four-man breakaway by the AG2, Cofidis and Andalucia teams, led from near the start but was hauled back in by the peloton 13 kilometres from the finish and the final sprint of the mainly flat, swift stage broke out soon afterwards.
Spain's Daniel Moreno held onto second place in the overall standings, 15 seconds behind Chavanel, with Nibali a close third at 16 seconds behind the leader.
Kittel had shone earlier this season by winning four stages each in the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour of Poland.
Saturday sees the first of two major mountain stages, a 177-kilometre ride from Talavera de la Reina to San Lorenzo de El Escorial northwest of Madrid, with slopes of up to 28 percent.