Caleb Ewan pips Groenewegen to win stage 11 – Tour de France

Tour de France 2019

Stage 11

Australia’s Caleb Ewan opened his Tour de France account with a fast finish in Stage 11 at Toulouse to deny Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen and Italian Elia Viviani.

Ewan, making his belated Tour debut for Lotto Soudal, proved the fastest of the sprinters at the conclusion of the 167km stage from Albi, edging Jumbo-Visma’s Groenewegen in a photo finish.

In the absence of lead-out man Jasper De Buyst, who rode off the road into a ditch inside the final 10km of the race, Ewan followed the right wheel and launched from Groenewegen’s wake with the finish line gaping.

A previous stage winner in both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, 25-year-old Ewan became the first Australian to win a Tour stage on his debut and has joined the elite club of 13 current riders who have taken victories in each of cycling’s three Grand Tours.

Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Viviani was a distant third ahead of the green jersey of Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) while Belgian Jens Debusschere (Katusha-Alpecin) completed the top five.

There were no major changes in the general classification as Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe(Deceuninck-QuickStep) retained the yellow jersey by 1’12” over defending champion Geraint Thomas ahead of the first day in the Pyrenees.

Colombia’s Egan Bernal, the Welshman’s teammate and co-leader at Ineos, is third a further four seconds back, while France’s Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) moved back into the top 10 at the expense of Italy’s Giulio Ciccone of Trek-Segafredo after the former yellow jersey was caught up in a crash with 30km remaining.

Colombia’s Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Australia’s Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) were also held up by the incident, with forced Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Total-Direct Energie) out of the race, although both riders were able to fight back into the pack before the finish.

Belgian Aime De Gendt (Wanty-Gobert) was the last man standing of a four-man break and was caught inside the final 5km as Jumbo-Visma swarmed to the front to set up their man Groenewegen.

But Ewan had different ideas, the pocket-rocket from Sydney turning his four previous podium finishes into the win that had eluded him – and the final piece in the jigsaw.

The photo-finish handout shows Ewan’s margin of victory over Dylan Groenewegen.

“To be honest I can’t believe it,” an ecstatic Ewan said. “I’ve been close in the last four sprints I’ve done, and my team never lost faith in me. I never lost faith in my sprint. I knew if everything came together then I can be the fastest on the day, and I think today I showed that.”

A break of four riders zipped clear from the outset in a move spearheaded by local rider Lilian Calmejane of Total-Direct Energie.

The Frenchman, who hails from Albi, told reporters in the start town that he was planning to attack alongside compatriot Anthony Perez, who comes from the finish town of Toulouse. And the duo kept good to their word, with Perez joined by Cofidis teammate Stephane Rossetto while the lesser known Belgian De Gendt – no relation to Thomas, the Stage 8 winner in Saint-Etienne – completed the quartet.

Over the gently rolling roads of the Tarn and in hot temperatures eased by a heavy breeze, the leaders established a maximum lead of three and a half minutes as the teams of the main sprinters worked hard to keep them on a tight leash.

It was a clean-sweep of minor gongs for Perez, who was first over the summit of both lower-category climbs – the Cote de Tonnac and the Cote de Castelnau-de-Montmiral – before making it a hattrick by pipping De Gendt in the intermediate sprint at Gaillac.

When the peloton passed through the sprint it was Italian Elia Viviani who beat Slovakia’s Peter Sagan to close the gap ever so slightly in the battle for the green jersey.

At this point, with around 80km remaining, the gap dropped under the two-minute mark for the four leaders, with the Jumbo-Visma, Lotto Soudal and Deceuninck-QuickStep teams of Groenewegen, Ewan and Viviani leading the chase.

Team Ineos soon came to the front to keep their leading duo of Thomas and Bernal out of trouble in an increasingly nervous peloton. And then, with the gap down to one minute with 30km remaining, the inevitable happened: a touch of wheels in the pack caused a raft of riders to go down and held up many more in the melee.

Worst off was Dutchman Terpstra, who was forced out of the race, and Italian youngster Ciccone, the former yellow jersey, who soon found himself off the back of a chase group that included some big-name riders, including his Trek-Segafredo teammate Porte and Colombia’s Quintana (Movistar).

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