Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) took his second stage victory at the Tour de France today as he outsprinted Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) despite suffering in the heat of southern France. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) retained the yellow jersey.
163 riders took the start of stage 16. Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) was a non-starter due to back pain. Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) attacked in the first kilometre of racing. They were reinforced by Lukas Wisniowski (CCC), Lars Bak (Dimension Data) and Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie) with 169 kilometres still to be covered.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) crashed at Cavillargues (km 49) but was unhurt. The break gained a maximum lead of 2’15” at km 41 as the pace of the peloton was set mostly by three teams and three riders: Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates), Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) and Maxime Monfort (Lotto-Soudal).
Bak was first at the intermediate sprint at Vallérargues with 112 kilometres to go. The oldest rider of the peloton also crested the côte de Saint-Jean-du-Pin, 81 kilometres before the end, in first position.
53 kilometres before the end, the risk of splits in the peloton because of the wind blowing from the right hand side forced the teams of the GC riders to speed up and the time gap went down to 25″ before going back up again. However, it didn’t exceed 50″ as the same teams – mostly Jumbo-Visma – kept the situation under control. With 28 kilometres remaining, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) crashed in the peloton and withdrew from the race. He had been sitting in ninth place in the overall ranking.
With 20 kilometres to go, Gougeard, Wisniowski, Ourselin, Rossetto and Bak had 30″ lead. Gougeard who initiated the move and kept it alive as long as possible was awarded the prize of most aggressive rider. The breakaway came to an end 2.5 kilometres before the finish.
Deceuninck-Quick Step perfectly led Elia Viviani out but Caleb Ewan came from behind to pip the Italian on the line and become the first sprinter to win two stages of the Tour de France this year – Julian Alaphilippe and Simon Yates have also won two stages. The Australian also became the youngest rider to have won at least one stage in every Grand Tour since Italy’s Nino Defilippis in 1956. After taking two stages in the Giro d’Italia this year, he has proven at the age of 25 that he’s now one of most consistent sprinters in the world.
Caleb Ewan: “It was so hot today and I was suffering a lot. I thought about it to get Maxime Monfort off the front because I thought I wouldn’t be able to hang on until the end. On a few climbs, I was really struggling but eventually, I kept the good position. This morning, before the start in Nîmes, we did a recon of the final kilometre with the team, so we knew what to expect. A long home stretch is not always the most easy finish because timing as well as positioning are harder. Jasper De Buyst did a tremendous lead-out and afterwards, I was on the wheel of the other fast guys, so I decided to go early. In the end, it paid off.”
“The fact that my wife and daughter are at the race for the first time, makes it really special. It is incredibly beautiful to celebrate this victory together with them. It was difficult to keep the confidence after some second and third places. I finally got it right in stage eleven. Now, the next sprint chance immediately delivers a second victory, that is just amazing! If I am the best sprinter in this Tour? I think there are some really good sprinters here. Maybe, I proved to be the most consistent one, but in any case, today I showed to be the best.”