T-Mobile?s Mark Cavendish could not repeat Friday?s victory at Knokke-Heist on Saturday?s stage of the Eneco Tour – but his fourth place behind veteran fastman Robbie McEwen does put the Briton into the lead of the points competition.
Cavendish lost contact with his lead-out man Roger Hammond some three kilometres from the finish at Putte, and was unable to fully dispute the stage?s bunch sprint.
The Briton did get back onto Hammond?s back wheel in the finale, but was still concentrating on moving up through the bunch when the sprinters made their final move.
McEwen, on the other hand, was perfectly positioned with a strong surge to secure his eighth victory of the season ahead of Italy?s Francesco Chicchi, with Norway?s Thor Hushovd finishing third.
For McEwen – the winner at Canterbury in this year?s Tour before being eliminated from the race in the difficult Alpine stage at Tignes – Saturday?s victory was unexpected.
?I?ve just come through a period of no training for 10 days because of a knee injury.? McEwen commented before the stage.
?It wasn?t planned for me to take part in the Eneco Tour, so I?m treating this race more as preparation for what?s coming up in September.?
?My condition?s good, but it could be better.?
Overall there was no significant change. Former Tour of Britain winner Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) still leads by 10 seconds over Dutchman Thomas Dekker, with Jose Ivan Gutierrez 17 seconds back.
Britain?s David Millar (Saunier Duval), fourth overall, was caught out in a crash with 17 kilometres to go, but although he had to stop breifly, the Scot came through unscathed.
182.7 kilometres long and largely flat, stage four from Maldegem in Belgium to Terneuzen in Holland on Sunday is also expected to end in a bunch sprint.