Bordeaux — Jasper Philipsen won his third stage of the Tour de France in Bordeaux on Friday, overtaking a bitterly disappointed Mark Cavendish in a last-gasp effort after a see-saw struggle to the line.
The 38-year-old Cavendish appeared to be about to bag a record-breaking 35th career stage win on the Tour de France when he took the lead, but Philipsen then burst back past him to win by a bike length at the line.
Cavendish later claimed he had had a technical issue in the finale.
"I'm bitterly disappointed there, like majorly disappointed," said Cavendish.
"When I stood up to sprint it slipped a couple of gears so I sat down, then it slipped back and I stood up again and the same thing happened," he said.
Already dressed in the sprint points green jersey, Philipsen raised three fingers in celebration.
Behind the Belgian and Cavendish came Biniam Girmay in third.
The Eritrean was left waving a hand in remonstration after being cut off by the winner, who veered slightly in the high-speed finale when leaping into action as he noticed Cavendish surge ahead.
Philipsen was graceful in victory, praising Cavendish as an all-time great.
"Cavendish was really fast and I would have loved to see him win," he said.
"When he shot past me I thought, that's incredible, he's going to get his 35th win. So I was happy that I managed to catch him and go past him, he (Cavendish) is the greatest sprinter off all time," he said.
The 25-year-old Philipsen has won all three stages that ended in bunch sprints and on the 2km long home straight his teammate Mathieu van der Poel again led the Belgian into pole position.
Huge crowds braved the baking heat along the banks of the Garonne river in Bordeaux believing they would witness a vintage Cavendish set an all-time record of 35 stage wins.
The last time the Tour de France ended in downtown Bordeaux was 2010, when Cavendish was in his glorious prime, and where he produced his trademark victory roar when he won that stage.
On Friday's seventh stage of this Tour they instead witnessed Cavendish's clever bid denied at the death as he crossed the line cursing.
Girmay, of the Intermarche outfit, would have become the first Black African to win a stage but the 23-year-old also missed out narrowly as he rounded out the podium.
In the overall standings defending champion Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark retained the leader's yellow jersey ahead of Slovenia's two-time champion Tadej Pogacar of the UAE Team.
Vingegaard said after his first day in yellow that he had enjoyed the hot conditions as the race ran through the region's world famous vineyards.
He was also upbeat after his infernal struggle Thurdsay with Pogacar in the Pyrenees.
"It's always better to be 25sec ahead than to be 25 behind," he insisted. "To be honest we expected to be a bit behind at this stage so we have to be happy.
"Last year all my best days came in the heat so I'm hoping the rest of the race is run in a heatwave, too."
Pogacar also seemed relaxed and happy.
"The final 50km, we were rolling full gas and it was very hot out there, but that was much easier than the last two days, believe me," he said.
Saturday's eighth stage is another flattish affair with a 200km race from Libourne to Limoges, albeit with three small climbs near the end, meaning a sprint is possible, as is a late escape.