Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan snatched his maiden Tour de France stage win by the width of a wheel rim in Toulouse to make a childhood dream come true.
The Lotto Soudal rider surged past Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen in a mass sprint to prevail by just a few centimetres in Stage 11, with Italian Elia Viviani taking third place, after an 167-kilometre ride from Albi to Toulouse on Thursday morning (Australian time).
On a transition day without big difficulties, the main favourites did not take any risks and there were no significant changes in the overall standings.
But a crash about 30 kilometres from the finish line left Niki Terpstra with a suspected collarbone fracture and took him out of the race.
Overall contenders Nairo Quintana and Australian Richie Porte were also involved in the pile-up, but got back on their bikes.
Riding in his first Tour, Ewan timed his effort perfectly to add to his solitary Vuelta a Espana stage win and his three Giro d’Italia victories.
“To be honest I can’t believe it,” the 25-year-old told CyclingNews.
“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,” Ewan said.
Ewan said he had dreamed of winning at the Tour de France since he was a child.
“I can’t believe it. The Tour de France is something so distant from Australia, something we only watched on TV. I can’t believe I’m even here, and to win a stage is a real dream come true for me.”
If I don’t do anything in my life again after this point at least I can say I won a stage of the @LeTour 😅 An absolute dream come true for me! @Lotto_Soudal I can’t thank you enough for this!🙏 #tdf2019 pic.twitter.com/mu22K5lifm
— Caleb Ewan (@CalebEwan) July 17, 2019
Four riders broke free of the pack just after the start outside Albi and at one stage had a lead of three minutes and 27 seconds.
The pack accelerated in the last 60 kilometres and the last of the breakaway riders, Aime De Gendt, was caught with 4.5 kilometres left.
Ewan perfectly timed his effort after Groenewegen launched the final sprint on the left side of the road. Ewan took the wheel of his Dutch rival and pipped him to the line in a very tight finish.
Porte is 3:59 behind Alaphilippe, while fellow Australian Jack Haig is 17:59 off the pace and Michael Mathews is another seven minutes back.
Mathews is the best-placed Australian in the sprint category with 167 points in fourth place, 19 above Ewan and 90 points off leader Peter Sagan, who was fourth on Wednesday. Viviani and Sonny Colbrelli are second and third.
The next moves in the battle for the leader’s yellow jersey could come on Thursday’s 209.5-kilometre stage 12, which takes the riders from Toulouse to Bagneres-de-Bigorre via climbs of the Peyresourde and the Hourquette a’Ancizan.