STAGE win is about as good as it gets for star sprinter, writes JOHN TREVORROW:
AUSTRALIAN star Caleb Ewan was at his formidable best winning into Cattolica on stage five of the Giro d’Italia.
The diminutive sprinter from Bowral NSW showed all the tenacity of the town’s other favourite son Don Bradman to pull out one of the best performances of his stellar career.
His Lotto Soudal team had him in the perfect position into the finale and in fact he found himself too close to the front and dropped back slightly. That’s when the trouble started and as the lead-out train for Cofidis delivered Viviani into the final 200 metres, Caleb clashed with stage 2 winner Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) which stalled his run and at the same moment Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) forged to the front. It looked over but Ewan dug deep and produced a stellar sprint, reminding me of Robbie McEwen at his best, and flew past Nizzolo and Viviani in the final 50 metres to snare his fourth Giro stage win. That was Nizzolo’s 11th Giro second placing but he does take the lead in the points classification as a consolation prize.
“It was a relief,” an excited Ewan said. “My goal is to win a stage in all three grand tours this year but the first sprint on stage 2 didn’t go so well so there was a lot of pressure on me and the team to do a good job today. “I think they outperformed themselves,” a relieved Ewan added. “Without them I wouldn’t have been so fresh at the finish and I got good lines through all the corners in the last 20 kilometres. I think I showed that I had the best legs in the final.
“I don’t know what happened with Merlier. I think there were some guys coming back through the bunch and there were a few twitchy moments. It didn’t stop me too much and I was still able to get out, so I was lucky, I think. The goal to start with was one win. I’ve done that and I’m pretty hungry to win as much as I can. This is good confidence for the team and myself going forward and we’ll give the next few sprint stages a good shot as well.”
In very different conditions to the previous day’s atrocious weather, the stage from Modena to Cattolica on the Adriatic coast was raced under clear blue skies and, with the profile pancake flat, this was always going to be a day for the sprinters. For the riders with overall ambitions the final 20 kms along the coast was going to be critical with plenty of road furniture and roundabouts. This turned out to be the case and with 15 kilometres with Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) hitting the deck and losing 13 minutes. But the biggest casualty was Spaniard Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) who crashed with stage four winner Joe Dombrowski (UAE Emirates) only four kms from the finish. The American managed to remount and limped to the finish eight minutes down. But for the Spaniard Landa, who was a genuine contender, it was game over and he was carted off to hospital with a broken collarbone.Embed from Getty Images
Aussie contender Jai Hindlay (Team DCM) managed to stay clear of the carnage and commented on just how attentive you have to be. “You have to treat every day like a GC day. Even flat days like today.”
Australian team BikeExchange kept its leader Simon Yates clear of all the trouble but it was a real battle for National champion Cam Meyer who has been sick for two days.