Mark Cavendish, chasing a record-breaking 35th Tour de France individual win, was eventually overpowered by Belgian cyclist Jasper Philipsen
By Julien Pretot | Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Bordeaux, France (Reuters) – Belgian Jasper Philipsen denied Mark Cavendish a record-breaking victory on the Tour de France to claim his third stage win in this year’s race on Friday, taking his fifth bunch sprint in succession since last year.
After 170 kilometers from Mont de Marsan, Philipsen was the fastest again in the final sprint, although Briton Cavendish almost caught the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider by surprise by launching his effort early, 250 meters from the line along the Garonne river.
The Briton, chasing a record-breaking 35th Tour de France individual win, was eventually overpowered by Philipsen and had to settle for what might remain the most frustrating runner-up spot in his career.
“We can’t be proud enough of the team,” said Jasper Philipsen, who again benefited from Mathieu van der Poel’s perfect lead-out. “Without them it would have been impossible to win a third stage already.”
The 38-year-old Cavendish, back on the world’s greatest race after a one-year hiatus, shares the record of stage wins with Belgian great Eddy Merckx, who took his 34 victories between 1969 and 1975.
Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay finished third.
Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey, 25 seconds ahead of second-placed Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia with Australian Jai Hindley in third spot, 1:34 off the pace.
“We can’t be proud enough of the team,” said Philipsen, who again benefited from Mathieu van der Poel’s perfect lead-out. “Without them it would have been impossible to win a third stage already. I’m proud of them. We worked together and that led to success.”
“I was always on a good wheel and never had to make a big effort before I had to produce my sprint. If you had told me a week ago, I’d have told you that you’re crazy. We will just continue to add others (stage wins).”
Philipsen, however, is wary of the Cavendish threat as the Manxman seems to be getting closer to the record win he has been seeking for his last Tour before heading into retirement at the end of the season.
“He was really strong and I would also love to see him win (a stage), like everybody, and for sure he will keep trying, he’s up there in good condition.”
Cavendish, who had won the last time the Tour visited Bordeaux in 2010, could not do much more although he pointed out that his rival had changed lines in his sprint
“I was in a quite good position, where I wanted in the long, straight finish. I was on the right wheel and I kicked a little early but actually I had done the same in 2010. Then I had to sit down. There was nothing you could do. We’ll keep trying again,” said Mark Cavendish
“I’d imagine a couple of teams might protest. He came from the left to the right but it’s not for me to discuss,” he told reporters.”
“I was in a quite good position, where I wanted in the long, straight finish. I was on the right wheel and I kicked a little early but actually I had done the same in 2010. Then I had to sit down. There was nothing you could do. We’ll keep trying again.”
Saturday’s eighth stage is a 200.7-kilometer hilly ride from Libourne to Limoges, which could favor Philipsen’s teammate Van der Poel, although the classics specialist has pledged allegiance to the best sprinter of the race this year.
“I hope to have a chance of a stage win in the next few weeks,” Van der Poel said. “Limoges is a sprint that suits me well but I think we’ll be playing 100 percent for Jasper’s green jersey (for the points classification), so it’s better to do the sprint for him there.”
In the points classification, Philipsen leads France’s Bryan Coquard by a huge 88 points with Cavendish a further 28 points behind.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon and Ken Ferris)