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19 Jul 2019 9:17
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  •   Home > News > International

    Tour de France stage win evades Caleb Ewan by narrowest of margins

    Caleb Ewan was pedalling so hard that his back wheel lifted off the ground as he topped 70 kilometres per hour — a situation that was perhaps costly, given the narrow margin of defeat.

    Australian Tour debutant Caleb Ewan has missed out on a maiden stage victory at the Tour de France by a matter of centimetres in a thrilling, high-paced sprint from Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen.

    Both riders topped 70 kilometres per hour in the final sprint, with the rear wheel of Ewan's bike lifting off the tarmac as he was hammering the pedals — a situation that was perhaps costly, given the narrow margin of defeat.

    At 230 kilometres, the journey between Belfort and the eastern French town of Chalon-sur-Saone was the longest stage at this year's race and was always expected to finish in a bunch sprint.

    French pair Stephane Rossetto and Yoann Offredo embarked on an enthusiastic but ultimately fruitless 218-kilometre-long breakaway as the peloton dawdled through the opening 100-or-so kilometres, before being caught 12 kilometres before the finish as the sprinters' teams ramped up the speed.

    Elia Viviani's Deceuninck-Quickstep team assembled at the front of the peloton to lead out their Italian superstar in the closing stages with Yves Lampaert, Danish champion Kasper Asgreen and Max Richeze setting a furious pace up the final rise into Chalon-sur-Saone.

    However Viviani — who it was later revealed was suffering from a slow puncture in the closing stages of the race — could not keep the pace.

    "We did it a little bit differently today," Ewan told SBS after the race.

    "I just wanted them to put me on a good wheel and that's exactly what they did."

    That wheel was that of green jersey winner Peter Sagan, with Ewan comfortably sitting in the slipstream of the three-time world champion before timing his sprint to near-perfection, diving up the inside of Viviani as the sprinters opened up in the final 100 metres.

    "Usually at the end of a stage, in the last kilometre, I can do it by myself … I can start my sprint when I want to start it," Ewan said.

    "I think I almost did a perfect sprint, but Dylan [Groenewegen] was just a bit quicker."

    That he was. The Dutch rider hit a maximum speed of 74.1 kilometres per hour to hold off the 25-year-old Australian — who topped out at 70 kilometres per hour — in the final metres of the frenetic sprint.

    "I'm definitely frustrated not to get a win because I feel like I have the legs to do it," Ewan continued.

    "It's better than coming 10th or 11th, I'm right there.

    "Just with a little bit of luck on my side I think I can definitely go for a win.

    Any victory for Ewan is unlikely to come until after the rest day, with a series of medium mountain stages through the Vosges and the Massif Central coming up in the next three days.

    Tomorrow's eighth stage is a lumpy 200-kilometre route from Macon to Saint-Etienne featuring seven categorised climbs totalling around 3,800 metres of vertical gain.

    The next opportunity for Ewan and the other sprinters will likely come in the 167-kilometre 11th stage between Albi and Toulouse on Wednesday, although the preceding stage 10 could result in a bunch sprint if the four categorised climbs can be negotiated by the sprint teams.

    "I've been in this position before where I haven't won in the first week of a grand tour and I've come back," Ewan said.

    "So I'm still confident that I can come back."

    All the favourites, including Richie Porte, who described the stage as "boring as hell", finished in the main peloton with no changes to general classification.

    Stage results

    1. Dylan Groenewegen (NED) — Team Jumbo-Visma — 6 hours 2 minutes 44 seconds

    2. Caleb Ewan (AUS) — Lotto-Soudal — same time

    3. Peter Sagan (SVK) — BORA-hansgrohe — same time

    4. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) — Bahrain-Merida — same time

    5. Jasper Philipsen (BEL) — UAE Team Emirates — same time

    General classification

    1. Guilio Ciccone (ITA) — Trek-Segafredo — 29 hours 17 minutes 39 seconds

    2. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — Deceuninck-Quick Step — +6 seconds

    3. Dylan Teuns (BEL) — Bahrain-Merida — +32 seconds

    4. George Bennett (NZ) — Jumbo-Visma — +47 seconds

    5. Geraint Thomas (GBR) — INEOS — +49 seconds

    21. Richie Porte (AUS) — Trek-Segafredo — +1 minute 56 seconds

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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