Early Team action by Cavendish's Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, Alberto Contador's Team Saxo-Tinkoff and Bauke Mollema's Belkin Pro Cycling team created a wide margin ahead of the peloton where Froome was contained.
Crosswinds on the 107.5-mile route in central France, from Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond, caused problems and made catching the earlier leaders difficult.
Omega seemed to be setting up Cavendish for the stage win, which he accomplished. It was his second stage win of the year. With 25 career Tour stage wins, Cavendish is now tied with Andre Leducq for third on the all-time list of Tour de France stage winners.
His winning time was 3 hours, 40 minutes, 8 seconds, having pulled away from Peter Sagan in the final yards for the win. Mollema was third.
Saxo, however, seemed to have his eye on a bigger prize -- returning Contador to the champion's circle of the overall Tour. Since he was in the front group -- finishing seventh -- Contador had the same time as Cavendish and sliced 1 minute, 9 seconds off Froome's lead.
Mollema is in second, 2:28 back of Froome. Roman Kreuziger is fourth, 3 seconds behind his Saxo teammate Contador. Laurens Ten Dam is fifth 3:01 off the pace. Alejandro Valverde, second going into Friday's stage, was well back and saw his Tour hopes fade.
Stage 14 takes the riders back into the mountains on a 118.7-mile route from Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule to Lyon in southeastern France.