Cycling

Pocket rocket doubles down

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AUSTRALIAN sprinter Caleb Ewan had to wait longer than he thought he should to get a chance at the Tour de France, but now he’s there he’s making the most of it, says cycling correspondent JOHN TREVORROW:

Caleb Ewan delivered a sprinting masterclass to snatch his second stage win of the Tour de France into Nimes.

It was a scorching day in the Provincial countryside and Ewan was in trouble on the first climb of the day. His Lotto Soudal team dropped back and escorted him successfully back to the peloton. But Ewan kept suffering and it was having his wife Ryann and new daughter Lily visiting for the day that offered the extra incentive. 

Having done a long apprenticeship, leaving Australian outfit Mitchelton-Scott because of lack of opportunities at the world’s biggest race, Caleb is now the only sprinter to have won two stages in this year’s Tour de France. The final sprint opportunity is expected to be on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday and the young Aussie is a red-hot favourite to win there.

“To be honest, I felt so bad today during the day. I think the heat really got to me. But I had extra motivation today because my wife and daughter are here. I’m so happy I could win for them. I said before it’s a dream to be here, and it was such a big dream to win one stage. Now I’ve won two, I can’t believe it,” Ewan said.

“I had Jasper [De Buyst] on the front with Dylan [Groenewegen] on the wheel with one kilometre to go. QuickStep came past in the final 500m and I lost a few more positions,” Ewan said.

 With the stage start and finish close by in Nimes Ewan had the rare opportunity to ride the final 500 metres of the stage. But how many of the other sprinters did that? None to my knowledge.

 “I looked at this finish at the start of the day and played all the scenarios in my head. One of the scenarios was if I was too far back. I think if you watch, I lay off the wheel and really take a run at it and start sprinting before the rest of the guys. It worked.

”When I looked at the finish this morning I knew there’d be two scenarios. I was either going to be too far back or in a good position and I was too far back,” Ewan said.

“I already played in my mind what I would do in that situation. I thought, ‘I’m going to back off through the roundabout and start my sprint early, run at the wheels and come past with speed.“In the end my plan worked.”Ewan’s wife Ryann and newborn daughter Lily watched his win from the Lotto-Soudal team bus.

“We’re very, very proud,” Ryann saidEwan said knowing his young family was at the race gave him extra motivation.

“As a pro cyclist I don’t think it gets too much better than this,” he said.

“It’s the pinnacle of our sport and all cyclists dream of winning here. It’s going to be pretty cool when my daughter is old enough to understand that the first ever race she watched me at was the Tour de France and I also won the stage that day.”

But it could have been very different, with Ewan admitting he nearly pulled the pin on trying for the win. 

“Today I felt really bad, actually,” Ewan said.

“I was getting dropped on the Cat 4 climb and I was thinking ‘This is really a bad day for me, my legs don’t feel good at all’.

“I was so close to pulling my teammate off the front because I thought there’s no point pulling anymore because my legs are dead.

“But I’ve been in this position before where my legs come good by the end so I resisted doing that.

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“Every sprinter, when they get a sniff of victory, have that extra adrenaline rush and you don’t feel it in the legs and I had that today.”

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was able to add another recovery day and is looking more and more comfortable in the maillot jaune. 

“I enjoyed a relatively quiet but hot day where temperatures went up to 40°C. “In the final kilometres I was scared to crash,” Alaphilippe admitted. “There were a lot of crashes, and I never want to crash, but especially when you are the leader of the race. I tried to take care in all the corners. In the end, we didn’t win with Elia but it was a good day.””Today was a really warm day on the bike but it’s the same for everybody and you have to deal with it. For me, I put ice on my neck all day and I tried to drink a lot and not forget to eat.”

Stage 16 Results

Tour de France General classification after stage 16
PositionRider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep64:57:30
2Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos0:01:35
3Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma0:01:47
4Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ0:01:50
5Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos0:02:02
6Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe0:02:14
7Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team0:04:54
8Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:05:00
9Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First0:05:33
10Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo0:06:30

Sprint Results

Tour de France Stage 16 Sprint results
PositionRider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal3:57:08
2Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma
4Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Total Direct Energie
6Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
8Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
10Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert

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Author: John Trevorrow

JOHN TREVORROW is a multiple Australian champion road racer and Olympian who has been doing media commentary at the Tour de France for more than 20 years.

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