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Cycling-Philipsen denies Cavendish to claim Tour de France hat trick

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By Julien Pretot

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 170km 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 metres from the line along the Garonne river.

The Briton, chasing a record-breaking 35th Tour de France individual win, was eventually outpowered by Philipsen and had to settle for what might remain the most frustrating runner-up spot in his career.

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.

“We can’t be proud enough of the team. 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,” said Philipsen, who once again benefited from Mathieu van der Poel’s perfect lead-out.

“I was always on a good wheel and never had to do a big effort before I had to produce my sprint. If you had told me a week ago, I would have told you that you’re crazy. We will just continue to add others.”

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, like everybody, and for sure he will keep trying, he’s up there in good condition.”

Cavendish had won the last time the Tour visited Bordeaux, in 2010.

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 place, 1:34 off the pace.

Saturday’s eighth stage is a 200.7-km hilly ride from Libourne to Limoges, which could favour Philipsen’s team mate 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. Limoges is a sprint that suits me well, but I think we’ll be playing 100% for Jasper’s green jersey (for the points classification), so it’s better to do the sprint for him there,” Van der Poel said.

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 Hugh Lawson and Clare Fallon)

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