Australia’s Caleb Ewan secured his second victory in this year’s Tour de France when he came out on top following a sprint at the end of 16th stage punctuated by crashes.
The Lotto Soudal rider saw off Italian Elia Viviani and Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, at the end of a 177-kilometre ride around Nimes in sweltering heat.
Julian Alaphilippe of France remains overall leader, as defending champion Geraint Thomas suffered yet another tumble. Thomas escaped serious injury, and is 1:35 behind Alaphilippe.
“He’s OK. He fell on his left side. He was checked by the team doctor, it doesn’t seem to be serious,” his Team Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal said.
Thomas was eased back into the bunch by teammates; Dylan van Baarle was cautioned for making a U-turn to return to his team leader.
Dane Jakob Fuglsang, who started the day ninth overall, crashed 28.5 kilometres from the finish and abandoned the race.
Probably the most special moment of my career so far❤️ My daughters due date was today but instead she was here to see me win a @LeTour stage! It wasn’t all bad that she was 6 weeks early😅 https://t.co/k021qVXmOl
— Caleb Ewan (@CalebEwan) July 23, 2019
One of the pre-race favourites after winning the Criterium du Dauphine last month, Fuglsang crashed out of the race for the second time in the past three editions.
Ewan’s victory is his second in this year’s Tour de France. He is now the only sprint specialist with two wins this year, having already won on the 11th stage in Toulouse.
“I knew if I kept persisting I would win and now I’ve got two wins,” Ewan, who is competing in his first Tour, said.
The Australian acknowledged his teammates for guiding him through a day that he initially felt wasn’t going to work out for him.
“Today, I was feeling really bad actually … I was getting dropped on the cat-four climb and I was thinking ‘this is really a bad day for me. My legs don’t feel good at all’,” he said.
“I was so close close to pulling my team-mate off the front because I was like, ‘there’s no point in pulling anymore. My legs are dead.’
“I have so much support from my team-mates. I tell them that I feel absolutely horrible out on the road. And they’re so supportive, they always just say ‘do your best — we’re going to go for the win and see what happens’.”
There was some disquiet about the punishing conditions and questions have been raised about why the competition’s “extreme weather protocol” wasn’t activated.
Three-times world champion Peter Sagan said the riders’ association (CPA) did nothing to protect them.
“The CPA should do something to protect us, that’s why we pay them,” said Sagan, who leads the points classification.