LILLE, France -- Marcel Kittel sprinted to his third stage victory at the Tour de France on Tuesday, while defending champion Chris Froome had a scare in a crash that scuffed his left knee and elbow and injured his left wrist before a tough day ahead on cobblestones.
Vincenzo Nibali, who kept the yellow jersey, decried a "crazy race" in the 101-mile Stage 4 along the Belgian border as cycling's big event entered France after a three-day start in England.
Unlike his wins in Stages 1 and 3, when he made victory look easy, Kittel won by a half-wheel length at the end of the ride from Le Touquet-Paris Plage to Lille Metropole.
"It's never easy ... (I was) lucky just enough at the finish line," Kittel said.
Froome, who fell early in the stage after a rider bumped another into Froome's front wheel, said on Twitter: "Took quite a tumble today but I'll definitely be starting tomorrow with no serious damage. It'll be a tough one for everyone on the cobbles!"
Peter Sagan also went down in a spill, and he too recovered to finish. Froome and two-time champ Alberto Contador are among 20 riders who trail Nibali by two seconds.
An aching wrist could mean pain ahead for Froome. The peloton rolls over nine patches of bumpy cobblestones Wednesday, which could make for a joint-jarring ride and prevent him from keeping his hands on the handlebars.
Many race experts believe Wednesday's 97-mile stage from Ypres, Belgium, to Arenberg Port du Hainaut, France, could offer the first big shakeout among the contenders because of the treacherous cobblestones.
"Tomorrow, we just have to make it through the day," Nibali said. "Let's hope it's not raining."
Before the fourth stage, 2010 winner Andy Schleck dropped out because of a crash injury a day earlier.