Caleb Ewan has unleashed his rocket man impression again, winning his second stage of the Giro d’Italia in three days after another dazzling piece of sprinting.
In a thrilling conclusion to the 181km seventh stage from Notaresco to Termoli, the Sydneysider again demonstrated he’s the fastest man in the race on Friday with a coruscating uphill burst to the line that left his rivals all floundering.
Ewan latched on to a long sprint for the line from Colombian Fernando Gaviria and roared past in the last 60 metres to win by a couple of bike lengths from the soundly-beaten Davide Cimolai and Tim Merlier.
The win also rocketed Lotto Soudal rider Ewan into the lead of the points classification, while Hungary’s Attila Valter finished safely in the bunch to retain the overall leader’s Maglia Rosa.
“My legs were absolutely burning in the end because basically I was sprinting from 450 metres to go and it was slightly uphill – that was a tough one,” reckoned the delighted 26-year-old Ewan.
“Gaviria pushed me a lot. If it had been anyone else, you probably would have waited a bit but you know that when he goes, he’s got the strength and speed to hold it, so I had to do it tactically.
“I didn’t want to accelerate super hard at the start. I left a gap a little bit, then with about 200 metres to go, I had a bit of gap to run into and then I really accelerated.”
Accelerated so quickly, indeed, that there was never a moment’s doubt that Ewan would skate to his fifth Giro stage win and take his total of grand tour victories to 11.
The Australian, though, was quick to salute the work done by his team to get him into the perfect position to strike amid the familiar bumping and barging for position in the denouement.
“It was all about teamwork from my guys from a long way out. I said in the last 10km, we really need to be at the front so that we don’t have to pray for anything and we have a really good run.
“And they did a really good job – and the most important thing for me I told them was the start of the climb. Because if I got a free run through there and a clear run on the climb, then I save a lot of energy.
“If I had to come from far back and move up, it would have cost me a lot on my sprint because it was a super-hard finish anyway.”
All’s looking good so far for Ewan’s shot at history by becoming only the fourth man ever to win stages at all three grand tours in the same calendar year.
“I’d be the first non-European to do it and as cycling is a global sport, if I can go down in history because of that, I’d love to leave some sort of mark in cycling,” he said.
But though he leads the points race, Ewan says there’s no way he’ll finish the Giro.
“I need to do what’s best in preparation for the Tour (de France). Unfortunately, sprinters legs don’t recover in the same way that any other riders do, and if I finished the Giro now, I would be dying for the next few months.”