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Cavendish keeps pressure on Sagan
Mark Cavendish comfortably led the peloton at the intermediate sprint on stage three of the Tour de France to add to his points haul.
A five-man breakaway led on the 197-kilometre route from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer as the 2012 race took to the roads of France for the first time.
Cavendish cruised over the line with 78km to go to take 10 points for sixth place and move on to 83 points overall.
Kenny van Hummel (Vaconsoleil-DCM) was narrowly behind him in seventh, with eighth going to stage one winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), who was wearing the points classification leader's green jersey Cavendish won for the first time in 2011. Sagan moved to 94 points overall.
Team Sky have their eyes on a greater prize in 2012, with Bradley Wiggins seeking to become the first British winner of the yellow jersey, but Cavendish appears determined to accumulate points in case the maillot vert is within reach come Paris on July 22.
After the 21st Tour stage win of his career on stage two, the world champion was set to take a back seat on the stage closest geographically to London, where he will seek Olympic gold on July 28.
A challenging day featuring six categorised climbs in the final 70km was sure to make the general classification contenders, including Wiggins, who was second overall overnight, nervous.
Andriy Grivko (Astana), Giovanni Bernaudeau (Europcar), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Sebastien Minard (Ag2r La Mondiale) and King of the Mountains Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) broke clear after five kilometres, with race leader Fabian Cancellara's RadioShack-Nissan-Trek team leading the peloton's pursuit.
The sprinters' teams took over as the intermediate mark approached and Cavendish cruised to the head of the peloton four and a half minutes behind the escapees.
The Manxman was even able to repeatedly glance at Van Hummel as he won the dash for the line before remonstrating with his rival. Cavendish appeared upset as Van Hummel veered off his line.