Caleb Ewan won his first-ever stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday’s Stage 11, completing his set of stage victories in the three Grand Tours. (Elia Viviani pulled off a similar feat on Stage 4.) The diminutive Australian had left his home-country team, Mitchelton-Scott, last year when it became clear that that team was more focused on winning overall races than sprint stages. Worked out well for both of them, it looks like – Mitchelton won the Vuelta a España last year, and Ewan won two stages of this year’s Giro d’Italia, along with today’s Tour stage.
It was a relatively short stage today – just 167 kilometers – as the bunch returned from their first rest day with the Pyrenees looming. There were just two minor categorized climbs, though, as they moved from Albi to Toulouse, through the sunflower-strewn Tarn River valley.
The day’s breakaway consisted entirely of riders from the small French teams: Anthony Perez (who lives in Toulouse), Stephane Rossetto (who’s been in a number of breaks so far), Lilian Calmejane (who was born in Albi), and Aimé de Gendt (no relation to Stage 8 winner Thomas de Gendt). They were never given more than about three minutes’ advantage, though, as the sprinters’ teams sensed this would be one of their last chances for success in this mountainous second half of the Tour.
There was a minor crash with 31 kilometers to go that sent a few riders to the ground, including Niki Terpstra, who was forced to abandon the race. Caught up in the tangle were overall contenders Nairo Quintana and Richie Porte, but they managed to rejoin the bunch after a short chase.
With 11 kilometers to go, Aimé de Gendt left the breakaway to go out on his own (and successfully bag the day’s “most combative” prize), but he and his colleagues had all been swept up by the time the bunch reached four kilometers to go.
That just left the last sprint to the line, and like most of the sprint stages in this year’s Tour (and unlike many such stages in previous Tours), it was a relatively orderly affair. Team Jumbo-Visma led the way, dragging their sprinter Dylan Groenewegen in their slipstream, and until the final few meters it looked as though they’d timed everything to perfection. But Ewan, whose tiny figure had been tucked in behind that of Groenewegen, leapt into the wind with about 100 meters to go and managed to come around the Dutchman just in time, pipping him by centimeters in a photo finish.
There were brief whispers of controversy about Ewan’s approach – he remained glued to Groenwegen’s wheel as the latter swung from the right to the left side of the road, and that put Ewan into the path of fellow sprinter Andrea Pasqualon – but the disturbance apparently wasn’t enough to merit punishment by the race judges. (Judges at the Giro d’Italia had disqualified Viviani for a similar move in that race earlier this year.)
|3||Egan Arley Bernal Gomez||+00:01:16|
|8||Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas||+00:02:04|