Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) put in a sensational sprint to win stage 16 of the 2019 Tour de France, his second stage victory in the race.
Despite Deceuninck-Quick-Step putting in an almost perfect lead out for Elia Viviani, Ewan was able to come from well back in the bunch on his own to beat the Italian on the line.
Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) tried to follow Ewan, but couldn’t do enough to come around the Australian and had to settle for third place.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) safely retained his overall lead as he finished in the bunch safely. The main change in the top-10 sees Richie Porte move up to 10th from 11th after Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) abandoned following a crash with 28km to go.
How it happened
Stage 16 of the 2019 Tour de France would see the last opportunity for the sprinters before Paris on Sunday with a flat loop out and back to Nîmes in the south of France.
The biggest challenge for the peloton would be the stifling heat, with temperatures set to hit up to 40 degrees Celsius in the afternoon.
Still, five men went off early in the day’s breakaway, including Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis), Łukasz Wiśniowski (CCC Team), Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie) and Lars Bak (Dimension Data).
The peloton were not happy to let the break get too much of a lead as the Tour heads into its last week, and the five riders out front established a maximum gap of just over two minutes.
Lotto-Soudal and Jumbo-Visma were the main workers on the front of the bunch, with UAE Team Emirates chipping in with one rider early on.
Second overall Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) crashed with around 130km to go, but he was able to get up uninjured and return to the peloton with the help of his team-mates.
Things remained relatively calm as the stage pushed on, and by 45km to go the break had just 55 seconds, having fluctuated down to 22 seconds at one point.
As things began to get more nervous, a crash with 28km to go brought down one of the overall contenders Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). With his team-mates around him, Fuglsang was quickly up and being inspected by medical staff, but it was clear he had injured himself and was forced to abandon the Tour.
Jumbo-Visma continued to work with Tony Martin on the front of the bunch as the gap drifted down to just over 20 seconds to the break, with the German finishing his effort just ahead of the final 15km.
Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) then put in a hard stint on the front to try and put the pain on some of Elia Viviani’s sprint rivals, switching turns with Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) into the final 10km, with now just a 16 second gap.
The break still held on though into the final 5km with 10 seconds in hand. As they rode through the wide roads inside Nîmes, the peloton could see the riders just in front of them. Eventually it took the power of Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe) to final pull it all back together with 2.5km remaining.
As the peloton sped into the final kilometre, no team was really able to dominate the front with a lead out.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step then made a well-timed move to the front through a chicane with Max Richeze and Michael Mørkøv bringing Elia Viviani to the front.
Despite delivering an almost perfect lead out, Viviani could do nothing to stop Caleb Ewan from coming from behind with a huge turn of speed to take victory on the line.
The Tour de France continues with stage 17 on Wednesday, a 200km route from the Pont du Gard to Gap that should suit the breakaway.
Tour de France 2019, stage 16: Nîmes to Nîmes (177km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto-Soudal, in 3-57-08
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck-Quick-Step
3. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
8. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
10. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert, all at same time
General classification after stage 16
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, 64-57-32
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos, at 1-35
3. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-47
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-50
5. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos, at 2-02
6. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 2-14
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 4-54
8. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 5-00
9. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Education First, at 5-33
10. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at 6-30