Caleb Ewan gets his win
It’s been a long time coming, but Caleb Ewan finally has the Tour de France stage win he’s craved.
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Today’s result has been years in the making. The Australian first displayed his sprinting talent on the world stage way back in 2012, when, as a fresh-faced 18-year old, he won silver at the World Championships Junior road race.
A professional contract followed a couple of years after, and a debut Grand Tour the year after that at the 2015 Vuelta a España, where he burst on the scene with a stage victory.
Despite that electrifying start to his career, various factors, including his former team Mitchelton-Scott’s commitment to riding for GC, has meant that a Tour de France debut has had to wait.
His new team Lotto-Soudal gave him the chance to ride the Tour this year, which had up until today been a frustrating affair with several podium finishes without a win. However, Ewan continued to persist, and was visibly emotional on the podium as he at last fulfilled a childhood dream.
Another photo finish
One of the characteristics of the bunch sprints this Tour has been just how close they have been.
Earlier last week Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) won ahead of Caleb Ewan, and today that order was reversed with Ewan winning by a margin only fractionally bigger.
These close finishes illustrate just how evenly matched the top sprinters are in this race. In fact, the six bunch sprints so for have produced six different winners – Groenewegen, Wout van Aert, Mike Teunissen (all Jumbo-Visma), Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and now Ewan.
This is in stark contrast to the pattern of recent Tour, where one sprinter – usually either Mark Cavendish, André Greipel or Marcel Kittel – has tended to dominate and win multiple stages.
This openness has made for thrilling, unpredictable sprinting, and we’re hoping the big names can make it through the mountains to resume hostilities on the Champs-Élysées at the end of the race.
Michael Matthews demoted
There were interesting developments at Team Sunweb when star rider Michael Matthews switched roles to instead lead out a sprint for young neo-pro Cees Bol.
The Australian explained before the stage that Bol was to be the protected rider of the day, citing the stage’s short length and the nature of the finish as reasons for the team’s decision.
However, it still seemed an odd choice, especially considering Matthews’ form at this Tour – he might not have won yet, but has been impressively consistent with top-10 finishes in all but two of the race’s stages, and was second in the green jersey classification.
He seems to have given up on the latter target, slipping to fourth in the rankings and seeing his deficit to Sagan expand to 90 points as he chose not to contest the day’s intermediate sprint.
Matthews’ lead-out was pretty decent, and he was right at the front of the race at the 1km to go banner, but Bol could ultimately only sprint for an eighth place finish.
After all the drama of stage 10, the riders today braced themselves for the possibility of more crosswinds wreaking havoc on the race.
As one of the big losers that day, Thibaut Pinot in particular was extra attentive, with his Groupama-FDJ riding right towards the front of the peloton for much of the day.
However, the riders were instead treated to a hot day where the winds did not blow, ensuring a fairly calm day in the saddle.
That might have come as a disappointment for us viewers, hoping for another action-packed day of racing ,but the riders will have been relieved at the rest, especially with so many difficult Pyrenean stages on the horizon.
Nairo Quintana and Richie Porte survive a crash
There might not have been any crosswinds, but it was still a stressful finale for those caught up in a late crash.
Occurring towards the front of the bunch with 30-or-so kilometres left to ride, GC riders Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) were among those caught and
Fortunately for these two riders, Porte’s Trek-Segafredo team was quick to react, and sent a train of domestiques for Porte to rapidly pace them back up to the peloton.
Less fortunate was the team’s other standout rider Giulio Ciccone, who, unlike Porte, actually went down in the crash, leaving him battered and bruised. He finished the stage in last place, a whole 12-03 after the peloton, ending any chance he might have had of competing for the white jersey (a classification in which he was third overall in).
Still worse off was Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie), who fell badly in the incident. The Dutchman abandoned the race altogether, with what looked very much like a broken collarbone.