NOGARO, France -- Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen won a mass sprint to earn a second straight stage victory at the Tour de France on Tuesday, while Adam Yates kept the race leader's yellow jersey heading into the Pyrenees mountains.
Philipsen followed up his win on Monday's third stage and was once again expertly helped into position to attack by his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate and countryman Mathieu van der Poel.
Philipsen showcased his pure speed by holding off Australian rider Caleb Ewan at the line to underline his credentials to win the sprinter's green jersey with another impressive performance. Philipsen's countryman Wout van Aert won it last year.
"Caleb was right next to me. I wasn't too confident. He almost caught up with me at the end, it was really nerve-wracking," Philipsen said. "I'm extremely proud to have won twice in a row. The finish was super fast, we felt like race cars. There were wide turns that sometimes tightened."
German rider Phil Bauhaus was third to make it the same top three finishers as Monday, with Ewan beating Bauhaus this time. Several riders behind them crashed as they jostled for position on the final straight.
The 181.8-kilometer (112.7-mile) route from Dax to Nogaro in southwestern France was almost totally flat and again favored sprinters.
On the eve of the Tour's first mountain stage -- a difficult Pyrenean trek -- riders were keen to save some energy.
The peloton started at a leisurely pace with no team prepared to place a rider in a breakaway. So there was time to glance over and take in some of the countryside scenery, such as the 12th-century Saint-Saturnin church.
The gentle procession was interrupted when the first attack came about 100 kilometers (62 miles) out, when Frenchmen Benoît Cosnefroy and Anthony Delaplace formed a breakaway. They were still together when they got over the day's only ascent -- the modest Côte de Dému is small compared to Wednesday's climbs -- but were caught with 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) remaining.
The closing stages were around a circuit with a smooth tarmac, but that didn't make it easier for Danish sprinter Fabio Jakobsen, who fell off his bike, and several other riders fell as they clipped barriers in a nervy finish.
But the Belgian-born Dutchman Van der Poel showed both his class and his race craft by timing an attack on the left and putting Philipsen in an ideal position from which he made no mistake.
"I'm really glad I didn't hit the deck. I saw there were a lot of falls," Philipsen said. "You also need some luck, but when you have someone like Mathieu with you, even in a difficult situation where everything is on a razor edge, he manages to bring us back to the front."
It effectively gave Philipsen a hat trick of sprint-stage wins after winning the last stage of last year's Tour.
"My goal in this Tour was to win a stage," he said. "We already ticked that box yesterday. Now, we want more. And we want to go for the points [green jersey]."
Meanwhile, Yates maintained his six-second lead over two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogačar of Slovenia and his twin brother Simon Yates in third.
"We'll see how it plays out tomorrow. I think it's the very first chance for a breakaway, so all hell will break loose at the start," said Yates, who rides for UAE Team Emirates. "Then, there are the bonuses on the last climb, so it's going to be a bit difficult for me [to keep the yellow jersey]. But we're lucky to have Tadej on our team."
Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark stayed in sixth spot but could make up some ground on Wednesday.
That's when Vingegaard and other expert climbers test their legs with two big ascents on Stage 5.
The 162.7-kilometer (100.9-mile) trek from Pau to Laruns includes a daunting 15.2-kilometer (9.4-mile) grind up Col de Soudet that has the toughest category rating.