Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) tooks his second win of the 2020 Tour de France in a hectic sprint on stage 11 of the race.
Ewan beat Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) into second and Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) into third place, however Sagan would later be relegated by the commissaires for a barge on Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
The slightly uphill finish into Poitiers saw double 2020 stage winner Van Aert take his sprint up early with 250m to go, with Bennett, Sagan, and Ewan tucking in behind him. Bennett and Ewan were able to find space to move around on the left of a fading Van Aert, while Sagan was forced up the right close to the barriers. Sagan then seemed to barge Van Aert to make space for him to come through and lunge for the line against Ewan and Bennett.
It was Ewan though who was able to just get his wheel over the line first, with Sagan narrowly getting in ahead of the green jersey, Bennett. The Irishman will move up to second place now though, with Sagan officially relegated from the sprint because of his barge on Van Aert, who now takes third.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was able to remain safe in his overall lead, finishing with the other GC contenders in the front group.
How it happened
Stage 11 of the 2020 Tour de France looked to be a second consecutive day for the sprinters, though perhaps without the wind-caused chaos of stage 10 the day before.
The 167.5km stage from Châtelaillon-Plage to Poitiers looked fairly uncomplicated on paper, save for an uphill drag to the finish that would make a sprint finish potentially more open to other riders.
A cross-headwind from the direction of the finish meant the peloton looked to take proceedings fairly calmly, with just one rider heading out into the breakaway.
Groupama-FDJ’s veteran Matthieu Ladagnous looked as though he was expecting other riders to join him in the day’s escape, but no-one was forthcoming and so the Frenchman powered on alone.
He quickly established a maximum gap of around four minutes, but his chances of making it to the finish while he remained alone were extremely slim. With just under 20km gone however, a group of Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tom Van Aesbroeck (Israel Start-Up Nation), and Michael Gogl (NTT) attacked and gained almost two minutes on the peloton. Deceuninck-Quick-Step were not keen on letting such a strong group get away though, and pegged them back quickly, eventually seeing the group succumb to the bunch with 38km gone.
The next real action came with 59.5km to go at the intermediate sprint, which saw Sam Bennett led out by his team to gain the maximum points available after Ladagnous had been through. Sagan followed him in behind to take the third place points. Bennett’s eventual third place at the finish and Sagan’s relegation meant he would hold on to the green jersey with a clear margin of 243 points to Sagan’s 175.
Up ahead, Ladagnous valiantly pedalled on despite the inevitability of being caught, and his gap gradually decreased until the peloton absorbed him with 43km to go.
The pace from there gradually ramped up, and as they entered a village on the route with 30km remaining, a crash saw Ion Izagirre (Astana) taken out and forced to abandon the race with some nasty looking injuries.
Into the final 10km Deceuninck-Quick-Step and Jumbo-Visma led the way, but the pace slowed enough on the technical run-in to Poitiers to allow Lukas Pöstlberger to attack with 6.3km to go, pursued by Kasper Asgreen and Bob Jungels (both Deceuninck-Quick-Step). Jungels went straight to the front when they bridged to Pöstlberger, with Lotto-Soudal the main chasers with Cofidis.
The trio had eight seconds with 3.3km to go after Asgreen did a huge pull, before he dropped off with 3km to go as they went uphill. The gap then quickly fell away, and the leading pair were caught with 2.2km to go.
Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) then put in a huge effort to pull the peloton into the final kilometre before B&B Hotels took it up at the front.
Wout van Aert, without any team-mates, surfed the wheels and managed to make it towards the front of the group, but seemed to hit out too early as he jumped with around 250m to go.
The other sprinters bided their time, before Bennett and Caleb Ewan came round him on the left of Van Aert with Sagan then barging him out of the way on the right. Ewan was able to just get his bike throw right and beat everyone to the line; the Australian taking a second victory of the race after his win on stage three.
The Tour de France continues on Thursday with stage 12, a long and hilly 218km course from Chauvigny to Sarran.
Tour de France 2020, stage 11: Châtelaillon-Plage to Poitiers (167.5km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aud) Lotto-Soudal, in 4-00-01
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck-Quick-Step
3. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
4. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels – Vital Concept
5. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
6. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)
7. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
8. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation
9. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale
10. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) NTT Pro Cycling, all at same time
General classification after stage 11
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 22-15-24
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s
3. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 28s
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 30s
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 32s
6. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at same time
7. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 44s
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-02
9. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana, at 1-15
10. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-42