at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Nancy, France - For the third time already at this Tour de France, Peter Sagan was pipped at the line as Italy's Matteo Trentin won the seventh stage on Friday.
Sagan could not have gone any closer this time as he was beaten by barely an inch after a massive 234.5km stage from Epernay to Nancy.
It was so close that Trentin even congratulated his Slovak rival after the line.
“At first I didn't know if I'd won. It was so close that I wasn't sure. I congratulated Peter because I thought it was him. From 50 metres out I saw him arriving like a bullet,” said the 24-year-old winner.
“It was really a sprint down to the last centimetre, I've seen the photo finish and there's only a centimetre in it.”
Although Sagan's face after the finish suggested he knew he'd lost, Trentin revealed he needed to be told the result over his earpiece.
“Cycling is nice as anything can happen. With all the publicity on the ground and all the different lines at the finish line, I was a little confused,” he added.
Sagan is rapidly becoming an expert in the 'close but no cigar' stakes.
As well as three bridesmaid finishes he's also come fourth three times and fifth once, his lowest finish in the seven stages so far.
Frenchman Tony Gallopin came third while race leader leader Vincenzo Nibali of Italy cruised home safely in the front peloton to keep hold of the yellow jersey.
“There's been lots of crashes so far and again today in the sprint finish,” said Nibali.
“The end of the stage was very tough, I knew Sagan wanted to win but Trentin won a great sprint.
“It was only at end that it was very fast because it was downhill and I wanted to stay at the front.”
There was no such luck for American Tejay Van Garderen, who started the day 11th, 2min 11sec off the lead, but lost another 1:03 after crashing around 16km out on the speedy and hectic finale. He's now 18th at 3:14.
His compatriot Andrew Talansky also came down in the sprint finish but as he was inside the final 3km, he was awarded the same time as the leading group.
Talansky was furious with Australian champion Simon Gerrans, whom he blamed for his crash.
Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters took a diplomatic line.
“He (Talansky) is OK, he's very angry and very annoyed but physically he's OK,” he said.
“I don't know if it's Gerrans's fault or not but he (Talansky) is annoyed.
“There was a risk of breaking his hand on the handlebar (as he crashed). He hasn't lost time and I think tomorrow he'll be OK.
“It's not exactly perfect for the Tour de France but it's not something that will affect him a lot.”
After more than 200km of leisurely pursuit of a six-man breakaway, the race kicked into gear in the final 20km.
Martin Elmiger and Bartosz Hurazski had managed to survive for 20km further than their four escape companions, spending an incredible 207km in the lead and sharing a handshake when their time was up.
Inside the last 20km, the peloton was shredded by a short but tough 3.2km climb, the Cote de Maron, at an average 5 percent gradient, after which Van Garderen went down.
The pace went up again before the final 1.3km Cote de Boufflers with a 7.9 percent gradient that further slimmed the leaders.
Sagan attacked over the top with Belgian Greg Van Avermaet but they were caught with around 1km left.
Sagan still had the legs to challenge in the sprint finish but Trentin held him off by a hair's breadth.