Caleb Ewan won his second stage of the Tour de France today, showing cleverness and agility to outsprint the other fast finishers on the looping return to Nîmes, in southern France.
Ewan and the rest of the sprinters profited from a textbook lead-out by Team Deceuninck-Quick Step, who rounded the final corner dragging their man, Elia Viviani, to what seemed a sure win. Their approach to the line looked like a rocket burning up on re-entry, however, as the first man, Michael Morkov quickly faded to one side, and the second, Max Richeze, fizzled and burst. That left the other sprinters – including Viviani – to pick their way through the debris in the final few meters.
Ewan – the smallest of the sprinters – had been hiding from the wind behind Dylan Groenewegen and Alexander Kristoff – two of the biggest – and he struck out with around 200 meters to go, coming even with Viviani just as Richeze was fading, and then deftly diving to the left to avoid Richeze’s final spasm. Despite the deviation, Ewan held on to finish ahead of Viviani, Groenwegen, and Peter Sagan.
Stage 16 was the last chance for the sprinters until the final stage in Paris, as tomorrow the peloton heads in the direction of the Alps. But while the sprinters’ teams were eager for a win, the day’s breakaway didn’t make it easy for them. The five-man group of Lukasz Wisniowski, Paul Ourselin, Lars Bak, Alexis Gougeard, and breakaway mainstay Stéphane Rossetto managed to stay away until the final kilometers. Even as the peloton hovered within seconds, they fought to keep clear rather than simply sit up in resignation.
Meanwhile, the overall contenders spent the day simply trying to stay upright. After a dramatic weekend in the Pyreenes and a much-needed rest day yesterday, the goal was simply to keep luck, health, and energy on their side before this week’s decisive alpine stages.
That didn’t prove easy for everyone, though. Defending champion Geraint Thomas, who stands in second place overall, hit a curb with 130 kilometers to go and fell on his left side. He was able to quickly remount and rejoin the peloton.
Jakob Fuglsang wasn’t so lucky. He was sitting in ninth place overall when he was involved in what appeared at first to be a relatively minor crash, with 26 kilometers to go. When the television cameras picked him out, he was hunched by the side of the road, seemingly unharmed but furiously trying to get his chain back on the ring. In the next moment, though, he was surrounded by race doctors. Suddenly the fight was gone from his face. With a look of resigned disappointment, he shook the hands of the teammates who had assembled to help him chase back to the peloton, and he headed for the medical van.
The race will continue without him on Stage 17, as the peloton departs from the picturesque Pont du Gard and heads to the foot of the Alps.
|5||Egan Arley Bernal Gomez||+00:02:02|
|7||Mikel Landa Meana||+00:04:54|
|9||Rigoberto Uran Uran||+00:05:33|