Australian Caleb Ewan has narrowly missed out on another stage win at the Tour de France after being pipped in a sprint finish.
It was a day of drama on a route peppered with traffic islands and roundabouts, with a pile-up 65km from the line temporarily taking out France’s Guillaume Martin and race favourite Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.
Both crashed riders managed to rejoin the main bunch, but in the end all eyes were on Sam Bennett as he claimed victory – and the green jersey – after an exciting end to the 10th stage early Wednesday morning (Australian time).
It was the Irishman’s first stage win at cycling’s biggest event.
“I’m in shock,” a tearful Bennett told Tour television afterwards.
“I just want to thank the whole team … everybody it took to get to here.”
Australian fans were hopeful 26-year-old Ewan would again claim victory following his win in the 3rd stage last week. It would have been his fifth overall Tour stage victory, building on his three at last year’s event.
Ewan came close, finding himself in a tight sprint to the line with Bennett and Slovakian Peter Sagan who lamented his “messy” finish.
Asked about the dramatic final seconds of the race, Bennett said he had thought he had made a critical error before crossing the line to realise a career “dream”.
“I thought I was in too big a gear,” the 29-year-old said of the sprint.
Wiping away tears, he added: “Sorry, I don’t mean to be a cry-baby”.
The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider, who already had three Giro d’Italia and two Vuelta stage wins to his name, reclaims the green jersey (maillot vert) for the points classification from triple world champion Sagan.
Sagan, on 175 points, is looking to win the jersey for a record-extending eighth time while Bennett, now on 196 points, is hoping to become the first Irishman to take the points classification since Sean Kelly in 1989.
Frenchman Bryan Coquard is in third place in the points, with 129 to his name, while Ewan is sixth on 105 points.
Edvald Boasson Hagen went down pretty heavily today in a crash on stage 10 of @LeTour.
🎥 Here's an update on his return to the team hotel. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/jCO4LxFfLY
— NTT Pro Cycling (@NTTProCycling) September 8, 2020
Bennett’s win followed some good news for riders worried about the coronavirus with all competitors from 22 teams testing negative before being allowed to set off for the latest stage.
French health authorities and organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) have said that should two members of a team, riders or staff, test positive for the coronavirus the whole outfit will be kicked out of the race.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) and the organisers said that one staff member each from French outfits Cofidis and AG2R-La Mondiale, Britain’s Team Ineos-Grenadiers and Australia’s Mitchelton-Scott contracted the virus.
Race director Christian Prudhomme had earlier tested positive to COVID-19.