Ireland's Sam Bennett denied Tour de France stage victory by Ewan's late show

It was a case of so near and yet so far again for Sam Bennett at the Tour de France as the Irishman was pipped on the line to stage victory in Sisteron. 

Fourth in a bunch sprint on the opening day of this year's tour, the Carrick on Suir rider looked set to come out on top in a sprint finish on Stage 3 before a late, late burst from Australian speedster Caleb Ewan denied the Deceuninck-Quick Step rider. 

Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) appeared from nowhere to weave his way through a congested bunch and pass Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) just before the finish line.

Italian and European road race champion Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) finished third while Julian Alaphilippe held on to the yellow jersey.

"Close but no cigar, great sprint by @CalebEwan . Congrats buddy," Bennett wrote on social media. 

It was Ewan's fourth Tour stage win after three victories on his debut last year and after the race, he said: "The last few days haven't been great for us, after we crashed on the first day and lost a couple of guys.

"But everyone stayed motivated and we all knew if it all went right, I could win the sprint today. Everyone today gave it 110% and it worked.

"This is the biggest race in the world and I'm so happy to get another win and prove last year wasn't a fluke. I hope to keep coming back and keep winning.

"With the calibre of sprinter here it's always going to be hard but we have a few more opportunities and I think we'll take them when they come."

Ewan displayed excellent bike handling skills to navigate his way through a chaotic finish. The 26-year-old narrowly avoided Peter Sagan's back wheel and the right-hand side barrier to get onto Bennett's wheel before he kicked clear with tremendous speed at the 50-metre marker.

"I was a bit too far forward in the final kilometre so I dropped back and gave myself a bit of a rest," said Ewan. "Coming from behind is a bit of a risk but I got through past the barrier and had the speed in the end."

Three-time world champion Sagan faded to finish fifth but picked up enough points to replace stage one winner Alexander Kristoff in the green points jersey.

The high octane finish to the race was in contrast to a largely sedate day, with France's Jerome Cousin spending 110km off the front alone before he was swept by the peloton with 16km to go.

Cousin had been in a breakaway with compatriots Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Perez, who was forced out of the race with a broken collarbone after he suffered a puncture and crashed into his Cofidis team car.

Defending champion Egan Bernal  moved up two places to sixth.

Ireland's Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb) finished 95th, in the main bunch, with his cousin and fellow Irishman Daniel Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) a further 1 minute 37 seconds back.

Tuesday's stage takes the riders up hilly terrain from Sisteron to Orcières-Merlette, a 157km trek.