Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal has finally got his first victory at the Tour de France, turning the tables on Dylan Groenewegen to beat the Jumbo-Visma man to win Stage 11 in Toulouse this afternoon, with Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick Step remaining in the yellow jersey.
Groenewegen had edged out the Australian to win Stage 7 in Chalon-sur-Saone last Friday, but today it was the Lotto-Soudal man who prevailed – and what’s more, he did so by hitching a lift on his rival’s leadout train.
Ewan’s own final leadout man, Jasper De Buyst, had taken a tumble into a ditch some 10 kilometres from the finish on a narrow stretch of road, which checked his team leader’s progress.
Roger Kluge rode hard to guide Ewan back towards the front of the peloton as the race entered its final kilometres, but the sprinter was now isolated from his team-mates and improvised by following Groenewegen’s wheel.
The Dutch sprinter went early, from more than 200 metres out, but Ewan responded and, tucked low in his trademark crouch, snatched the victory as the pair went shoulder to shoulder across the line.
Besides that second place last week, Ewan, riding his first Tour de France, also had three third-placed finishes to his name during the race.
By winning today, the 25-year-old – his birthday fell on the day the race visited La Planche des Belles Filles last week – also joins the select group of riders to have won stages at all three Grand Tours.
Following the carnage wrought by crosswinds on Monday’s stage into Albi, the peloton was nervous as racing resumed after yesterday’s rest day, particularly as there was the possibility of a repeat of those conditions later on during the 167-kilometre stage.
The crosswinds didn’t materialise, but a big crash 30 kilometres as the peloton chased down the day’s four-man break out did see Total-Direct Energie’s Nike Terpstra forced to abandon the race with what appeared to be a broken collarbone.
Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone, wearer of the race leader’s yellow jersey, was caught up in that crash, the time he lost enabling Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot – the highest profile loser due to the crosswinds on Monday – to move back into the top 10 overall, although he remains 2 minutes 33 seconds off the race lead ahead of tomorrow’s first day in the Pyrenees.
Stage winner Caleb Ewan
My first dream was to become a professional cyclist, the second one to ride the Tour de France and the ultimate wish was of course to win a stage.
To this day, I was able to do all bunch sprints but I just missed the victory a couple of times. If you’re able to take the victory at the fifth attempt, the joy, relief and all the other different words I can come up with are immense and very intense.
The team always kept believing in me and I also never stopped believing in the team and in my own speed.
Everything - like my timing and positioning just needed to fall into place one day and that was the case today.
The final part of the race was quite chaotic, but only the final result is what matters. What didn’t succeed the past sprints, happened today. I can’t describe how happy I am.
Race leader Julian Alaphilippe
Maybe Egan Bernal is right when he says that GC favourites will save their legs tomorrow for the time trial the following day but I prepare myself mentally for attacks to take place, whether it comes from the favourites or other riders who want to gain time.
I’m just happy to have the yellow jersey for one more day and I expect anything.
Egan Bernal, third overall
There was almost a crash near the end so I had to move up and try and avoid any time gaps. Today was not easy after the rest day, the day following the rest day is always hard, but it always looked like it would end in a sprint.
There are some riders who need to make time up on GC, so I think that we are in a really good position and we don't need to take many risks before the time trial.
Tomorrow’s stage will be the first one in the mountains and I don’t know what to expect. I just hope to feel good. I think it’s too early to go on the offensive, especially as an ITT and another difficult mountain stage come right after. But, in any case, I’m sure there will be some attacks.
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