Caleb Ewan says sprinters never want to put each other “in harm’s way” after he squeezed through gaps to take the stage three victory at the 2020 Tour de France.
The Australian floated back on the run-in after finding himself too far forward too early, then fighting his way back up through traffic to pip Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) on the line.
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“I was too far forward with 1km to go so I knew I had to adjust my sprint a bit and go back in the wheels and take a bit of a risk and a chance that I could get out because sometimes you get boxed in or someone can separate in front of you,” Ewan analysed after his win. “So it was a bit of a risk. I think I came around quite close to the barrier but luckily I got through and got a really good run at the line.”
The Lotto-Soudal rider did indeed squeeze through a gap to the right of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) that only the diminutive Aussie could have fit through. The Slovakian didn’t attempt to close the door, and in spite of recent high-profile sprint finish crashes, Ewan says no sprinter intends to put anyone in harm’s way.
“None of us sprinters want to put anyone in harm’s way, I don’t know if [Sagan] even knew I was there or not but I like to think if he knew I was there he wouldn’t take the chance of putting me in the barriers,” Ewan said.
“I think I came through quite quick on the inside so there was a risk that he wouldn’t see me there and I’d be closed off but luckily he left just enough room for me to get through.”
Ewan knows sprinters sign up for risks every time they line up at the start of a race, and his Lotto-Soudal team already lost two of their riders to crashes on the opening day, with Philippe Gilbert withdrawing and John Degenkolb finishing outside the time limit.
“It meant we had to adapt to the sprints and ride them a bit differently and then I just had to do the rest,” Ewan said of being reduced to a squad of six.
“It was a pretty terrible start for the team, we came here to get the yellow jersey on the first stage. It was a big blow but I think now it’s nice for the whole team that we have a win and everyone can relax a bit. And when there’s a more relaxed atmosphere I think that’s when you perform the best.”
Alexander Kristoff has already hinted he may consider the possibility of challenging Peter Sagan for his green jersey, but is wary of committing to the task, as is Ewan.
“I’ll see how close I am. I had to be up there in the first sprint which I wasn’t. I obviously got points today but I’ve seen a lot of guys, especially at the intermediate, going for [the green jersey].
“At the moment I’m not really interested but maybe if I take a few more stage wins then maybe I’ll get closer in the competition but for now my priority is for stage wins. Unless I get a lot of stage wins and get close to the green jersey I’m not going to go for it.”