Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen took on Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France today. Though HTC-Columbia’s Cavendish got the win in Montargis, Boasson Hagen is showing to be gaining experience with his challenge for the win.

“He’s not a pure sprinter, but if he’s got clear air in front of him he’s very strong for a long time,” said Sky’s team manager, David Brailsford. “The sprints haven’t gone the way people would have expected them to, but that’s two thirds in a row, he’s sprinting well.”

Cavendish appeared to start his sprint early on the slight uphill into Montargis and for a moment it appeared that he would lose to Sky’s young star. Despite missing out to Cavendish and Gerald Ciolek, Boasson Hagen held on to finish ahead of other accomplished sprinters: fellow Norwegian Thor Hushovd, Alessandro Petacchi and Tyler Farrar.

The young rider, at 23 years old, in fact helped complete a top four of under 25 riders today. His placings at the Tour de France also add to his wins last year in Ghent-Wevelgem, at 21 years old, and the Tour of Britain, at 22 years old

“He’s a guy for the future, there’s absolutely no pressure on him from the team,” Brailsford continued. “We just wanted to bring him here for experience. It goes without saying he’ll be a green jersey contender in the future.”

Sky is fighting for the yellow jersey this year with Brad Wiggins. His quest demands the concentration of the whole team, but ‘Eddy’ was allowed two men for today’s and yesterday’s sprint: Juan Antonio Flecha and Geraint Thomas.

“He will only get better in this Tour de France,” said Wiggins.

“It’s hard to imagine in ten year’s time where Edvald will be in this sport. At this stage in his career he could go either way. He could almost be a bit like a Laurent Jalabert, go for the GC or sprints. Already he is showing that he can pretty much do anything.”

Boasson Hagen may look to try again tomorrow, but for sure he will have to switch to domestique duties for Wiggins this weekend, when the Tour de France enters the high-mountains.

He kept a cool head after his placing and looks ahead – like Brailsford said – to the future.

“It’s hard to say if I’m getting stronger,” Boasson Hagen explained, “but I feel quite strong in the sprint.”

Tour de France 2010: Latest news

Cavendish strikes back in Tour de France

Thomas happy with Tour’s white jersey; but says ‘All for Brad’

Wiggins crashes on Tour stage start

Cavendish and Farrar return to top

Cavendish keeps up fight for first Tour win

Sky delivers Boasson Hagen to third without pressure

Thomas in tour’s white jersey; Wiggins gains time

Evans and Schleck gain in Tour’s hell of the north

The Feed Zone: Tour news and views (July 6)

Vande Velde abandons Tour following crash

Andy Schleck has a laugh after stage two crash

The Feed Zone: News and views (July 5)

Sky banks on Thomas ahead of cobbled stage

Cavendish’s sprint train weakened with Hansen out

Armstrong under fire as Landis allegations reach mainstream

Team Sky’s decision to put Wiggins off early back fires

Tour de France 2010: Stage reports

Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour

Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims

Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC

Stage three live coverage: As it happened

Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa

Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters

Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win

Tour de France 2010: Photos

Stage three photo gallery

Stage two photo gallery

Stage one gallery

Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2010: Videos

Stage four video highlights

Stage three video highlights

Stage two video highlights

Stage one video highlights

Prologue video highlights

Tour de France 2010: Race guide

Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Official start list, with race numbers

Brits at the Tour 2010

Tout team guide

Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean

Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins

Tour de France 2010: Pictures

Tour team presentation, Rotterdam

Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special