Australian star Caleb Ewan further enhanced his growing reputation as the world’s best sprinter by claiming another thrilling Tour Down Under stage win.
The Lotto-Soudal rider found himself in the gravel as the peloton entered Murray Bridge on Friday, but survived a tricky finish that saw several riders go down in a series of incidents.
Ewan timed his sprint perfectly, surging late to edge out Irish champion Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step).
It was the second stage win this week for the pocket rocket, who also claimed the Schwalbe Classic on Sunday.
“Everyone knew that there could be some crosswinds when we came down from the climb onto the flat, straight sections and then for the last half of the race it was super nervous,” Ewan said.
A tight corner about 300m from the finish line played into Ewan’s hands.
However, there was some controversy, with Bennett claiming post-race the final sprint was significantly shorter than the road book provided by Tour organisers had indicated.
“I knew it was around 300m,” Ewan said. “I didn’t know exactly, but I saw the 300m sign coming into the corner, so I knew it was maybe 250m coming out of it.
“But, yeah, I was kind of waiting for him (Bennett) to start and I was surprised that he left it so late, but it suited me actually to leave it later.”
Ewan benefited from teammate Roger Kluge’s efforts to put him in a good position.
“I told Roger to put me on (Bennett’s) wheel coming into that corner,” Ewan said.
“A finish like that suits me pretty well, with a corner right near the finish line, when there’s an acceleration right to the line.
“I knew that if my legs felt good then I could accelerate fast and that’s what I did.”
Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte saw his overall lead cut to three seconds by two-time defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), who took three bonus seconds from the stage in intermediate sprints.
Jasper Philipsen (UAE) was third overall on the stage and claimed both intermediate sprints, taking the blue sprint jersey in the process.
Mitch Docker (Ef Pro Cycling) and Laurens De Vreese (Astana) were hurt in a crash that took down a bunch of riders seven kilometres from the line, while UniSA duo Kelland O’Brien and Tyler Lindorff did not finish the stage.