BAYONNE, France — Belgian cyclist Jasper Philipsen won the third stage of the Tour de France in a bunch sprint on Monday, while Briton Adam Yates retained the race leader’s yellow jersey.
Philipsen, 25, who won two stages in last year’s race, was masterfully led by Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate Mathieu van der Poel and comfortably held off Germany’s Phil Bauhaus and the ‘Australian Caleb Ewan as they rushed to overtake him.
“It was a tense final, but it’s the Tour de France: there are no freebies, everyone goes all-in,” said Philipsen. “It’s incredible to have Mathieu as a leader. If he had the space to go there, he sure has the speed to fight for the win.
Danish sprinter Fabio Jakobsen finished fourth ahead of Belgian Wout van Aert, who failed to pass Philipsen on the right in the final 50 meters and fell back near a guardrail.
They all recorded a time of 4 hours, 43 minutes and 15 seconds on the 193 kilometer (120 mile) course between Amorebieta-Etxano in the Spanish Basque Country and Bayonne in France.
The main contenders for the final victory arrived safe and sound.
Yates maintained his six-second lead over two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogačar of Slovenia and his twin brother Simon Yates in third.
“For us, it was more about recovering as much as possible,” Yates said. “It’s hard to get the chance to do it in the Tour de France, so we try to take every chance we have.”
Defending champion Jonas Vingaard of Denmark remained sixth ahead of Tuesday’s fourth stage.
Pogačar, who had surgery on his broken left wrist following a fall during the classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège, was relieved to avoid any danger.
“I tried to stay safe in the final, because it was a very fast finish but the rest of the stage was quieter. So far so good,” Pogačar said. “We have two days easier from the point of view of the GC (general classification), because I hope that tomorrow’s stage will be like today’s, then we will reach the Pyrenees.”
Monday’s trek passed serenely past the monastery of Zenaruzza and through rolling countryside under restful blue skies, before crossing into France.
American Neilson Powless and French veteran Laurent Pichon got into a breakaway early, but others didn’t follow and did it rather softly in terms of speed. Pogačar punctured his rear tire, but smiled as he eased back into the peloton.
Powless gave the crowd a thumbs up and a peace sign to the TV camera by his side after he was the first to reach the top of the Côte de Milloi – one of four short climbs on an otherwise flat route passing through picturesque fishing villages on the Atlantic. coast.
French rider Victor Lafay, winner of the second stage on Sunday, briefly chased to earn a few points in the quest for the green jersey awarded each year to the best sprinter.
Powless raised his right fist after completing the fourth ascent and, having collected all the points for the day counting towards the best climber’s polka dot jersey, he then slowed the pace.
“It was a successful day. I was able to score KOM (King of the Mountains) points today and it didn’t cost too much energy,” said Powless. “I felt very good today. Everything is going in the right direction. I will have a relaxing day tomorrow which will help me prepare for the Pyrenees.
The Powless landing left Pichon, 36, alone in the lead as he passed two imposing French castles and past the famous port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
But with his head down and his lead evaporating, Pichon didn’t have time to admire any of these sights and he was caught with 37 kilometers (23 miles) to go.
The large peloton – comprising a dozen of stage victory contenders – then picked up the pace considerably as each team prepared their sprinters for the shootout.
Tuesday’s 181.8 kilometer (112.7 mile) course between Dax and Nogaro in southwestern France is almost completely flat and again favors sprinters.
Then climbers will test their legs with two big climbs on Stage 5, including a daunting 15.2 kilometer (9.4 mile) ascent to Col de Soudet.
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