TROYES, France — Marcel Kittel had little trouble winning the sixth stage of the Tour de France in a mass sprint finish Thursday with Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish both no longer in the race.

Chris Froome held on to the leader’s yellow jersey after a sultry but uneventful day in the peloton. It was Kittel’s second victory in this year’s race and 11th overall in his Tour career.

As the other contenders bunched together on the right side of the road, Kittel burst forward around them on the left and easily created a comfortable gap allowing him to celebrate as he crossed the line. “I was really confident in my team,” Kittel said. “I was also really confident in myself today. There was just a moment when I broke free and started to go ahead.”

Stage 4 winner Arnaud Demare finished second and Andre Greipel was third. Sagan, the world champion, was disqualified for elbowing Cavendish to the ground two days ago. The fall resulted in Cavendish, who has 30 Tour wins, abandoning the race with a broken shoulder.

Kittel said the absence of Cavendish and Sagan has altered the racing in that their teams are no longer battling out the sprint finishes. He was repeatedly asked after his win about their absence.

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“It’s a bit sad that it’s all about this decision,” he said. “The level that we have here for the sprints is still very, very high.” Kittel required slightly more than five hours to ride the mostly flat 134-mile leg from Vesoul to Troyes, and then bent down over his handlebars, close to tears, as he took in the victory.

Sagan’s appeal rejected

Sport’s highest court has rejected Peter Sagan’s appeal to be allowed back into the Tour de France. The world champion was sent home from the race for elbowing British rival Mark Cavendish during Stage 4 on Tuesday. His Bora-Hansgrohe team appealed to the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. In a short statement Thursday, the court said it rejected the appeal and that Sagan “remains disqualified from the 2017 Tour de France.”