Too fast, too smart, and too confident: Caleb Ewan has shown he's the form sprinter in the world right now, taking his 5th victory for the year and 2nd in the Tour Down Under.
Words - James Raison Photo credit: Santos Tour Down Under / Regallo
The hansgrohe Stage 3 of the Tour Down Under spun out of the seaside suburb of Glenelg: the tribal tattoo capital of Adelaide. The riders were staring down 144 km of coarse Fleurieu Peninsula roads finishing with 4 technical circuits around Victor Harbor with an expected sprint finish.
An early break sprang off the front consisting of Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal), Samuel Jenner (Team UniSA-Australia), Tukiya Arashiro (Bahrain-Merida), and stage 1 soloist Larens De Vreese (Astana). The peloton yanked them back before Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) counter-attacked. The Belgian professional breakaway-ist was soon joined by Clement Chevrier (AG2R La Mondiale), Jeremy Maison (FDJ Cycling Team) and Vergard Stake Laengen (UAE Abu Dhabi). The group was cohesive, with everyone working on the front.
The Sellicks Hill KOM point saw De Gendt attack, taking the spoils ahead of Maison and Chevrier. Maison then took the first sprint point over De Gendt, and Chevrier before De Gendt took the next sprint point over Stake Laengen and Maison. Neither sprint was contested as the 4 leaders maintained their rhythm.
Pace making was shared around miltiple teams with BMC protecting their race leader Richie Porte, and Bora-hansgrohe looking to keep Sam Bennett and Peter Sagan well-positioned.
The bunch entered the first Victor Harbor circuit as the peloton began to get very keen on reducing the advantage. ORICA-SCOTT joined the pace making, representing Caleb Ewan and there was only one minute to the 4 men ahead.
Lanky Norwiegian Laengen started to feel the pressure from the peloton and jumped ahead of this 3 companions on an uphill drag. He played a cat and mouse game with his former breakaway companions, yo-yoing off the front for several kilometers. Behind them the peloton was charging and the gap dropped under a minute.
As the bell rang, Laengen was holding a 35 second gap and still flying and the rest of the breakaway had been absorbed. His gallant charge was over with 5 km to go as Dimension Data took control at the front.
A touch of wheels caused a nasty crash in the middle of the peloton with several riders hitting the road hard. Second overall Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) was one of the victims, taking several minutes to re-mount and with a heavily ripped jersey. He won’t lose any time, with the crash 100 metres inside the 3 km banner. but it’s going to be incredibly difficult to defend his position after such a heavy crash.
Team SKY led the race under 1 km for Danny Van Poppel. Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) crossed the road and tried move on the inside but the canny Caleb Ewan (ORICA-SCOTT) pinned himself to the Irishman’s wheel perfectly. He opened up his sprint and raised his arms in celebration at the line. Peter Sagan crossed second after picking the hardest way through the pack, and third was Niccolo Bonifazio (Bahrain-Merida).
Ewan’s timing and position was exceptional. He moved from eigth wheel in the final corner, to perfectly jump on Bennett’s wheel before blasting everyone into the weeds.
It was far from easy for the young Aussie though:
“I lost a few of my team-mates in the downhill and it was a messy sprint,” said Ewan. “Luke Durbridge took me back to the front with 3 or 4km to go and he positioned me perfectly in the end. I was jumping around the wheels and I'm delighted I made it again.”
Race leader Porte was happy to survive the stage that saw his closest challenger hit the deck:
“It was a quite nervous and stressful day,” said Porte. “Sometimes the flat stages are the most dangerous. I'm glad I didn't crash. Even at the front there were crashes in the finale.
“There is so much to lose on a day like that and I'm relieved I'm still in the lead,”
Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under sees the race spend most of the day on undulating terrain to the north-east of Adelaide before a downhill finish in Campbelltown. Ewan again looks like the man to beat.
Top 10 finishers on Stage 3
1. Caleb Ewan - ORICA-SCOTT
2. Peter Sagan - Bora-hansgrohe
3. Niccolo Bonifazio - Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team
4. Danny Van Poppel - Team Sky
5. Edward Theuns - Trek-Segafredo
6. Nikias Arndt - Team Sunweb
7. Sean De Bie - Lotto Soudal Cycling
8. Lorenzo Manzin - FDJ
9. Ruben Guerreiro - Trek-Segafredo
10. Baptiste Planckaert - Katusha Alpeccin
Top 10 overall:
1. Richie Porte - BMC
2. Gorka Izaguirre - Movistar: +20”
3. Esteban Chavez - ORICA-SCOTT: +22”
4. Jay McCarthy - Bora-Hansgrohe: +24”
5. Nathan Haas - Team Dimension Data: +27”
6. Rohan Dennis - BMC: 29"
7. Luis-Leon Sanchez - Astana Pro Team: ST
8. Diego Ulissi - UAE Abu Dabi: ST
9. Rafael Valls - Lotto Soudal: ST
10. Robert Gesink - LOTTO NL - Jumbo: ST