Caleb Ewan made it a race to remember for Orica-GreenEdge after taking sprint victory on stage five of the Vuelta España, beating John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) to the line in Alcala de Guadaira.
The Australian team have already enjoyed success through another young rider Esteban Chaves, who took victory on stage two and held the red leader’s jersey, but it was their home rider Ewan who enjoyed success on the uphill drag to the finish on the Vuelta’s fifth day.
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The 21-year-old’s teammates were working hard on the front in the closing kilometres to leave Ewan in the perfect position in the final stretch to the line. Degenkolb was the first to launch his sprint within the final 500m, but quickly faded, while Sagan looked to be suffering from the effort he laid out on Tuesday’s steep finish as he dropped away.
Ewan was then able to move round the German Degenkolb, and seemed to comfortably roll across the line with space to spare as he celebrated victory in the first Grand Tour of his young career.
The main action of the 167.3km day starting from Rota was dominated by the three man break, containing Iljo Keisse (Etixx – Quick Step), Antoine Duchesne (Europcar) and Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre – Merida).
Ethiopian Grmay was the first to stretch out a gap, before the three came together to instill a seven minute maximum gap until things tumbled quickly as the race hit the final 30km. Keisse went solo, but was eventually brought back to the peloton like his two companions with 9km remaining.
Things then accelerated on the flat run into the final uphill drag, with the GC teams controlling things before the sprinters teams came to the fore in the hope of placing their men in the right position for the win.
And it was Orica who played it perfectly, with their up-and-coming sprinter Ewan taking the biggest win of his career at this year’s Vuelta.
There was some diappointment for Orica though, as Chaves lost his overall lead to Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin, who finished six seconds ahead of the Colombian to take control of the red jersey.
Things are likely to shake-up in the overall standings on Thursday’s 200.3km stage six to Sierra de Cazorla though, with two categorised climbs en route including a third category summit finish which will see the climbers come to the fore again in this Vuelta.
Vuelta a España stage five: Rota – Alcalá de Guadaíra (167.3km)
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, in 3-57-28
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
3. Peter Sagan (Slo) Tinkoff-Saxo
4. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC, all same time
5. José Joaquin Rojas (Esp) Movistar, at 2 secs
6. Kristian Sbargali (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale
8. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha
9. Tosh van der Sande (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
10. Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
Overall classification after stage five
1. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, in 17-09-06
2. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-Green-Edge, at 1 second
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky at 16s
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin at 25s
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 29s
6. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha at 31s
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 35s
8. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 36s
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar 37s
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana 48s