A calm day of racing had an explosive finish as Caleb Ewan surprised viewers, camera operators and Sam Bennett when he took the win. The Lotto-Soudal racer’s explosive final sprint powered him into first place on the third stage of the Tour de France.
Day three of the Tour, 198km from Nice to Sisteron, was flagged as a sprinter’s stage, but that didn’t mean it lacked elevation. The course featured 3,000m of climbing and four categorized climbs: Col du Pilon (8.4km at 5.1 per cent), Col de la Faye (5.3km at 4.8 per cent), Col des Lèques (6.9km at 5.4 per cent) and Col de l’Orme, (2.7km-long at five per cent).
Early on, mountains classification leader Benoît Cosnfroy of Ag2r La Mondiale, Cofidis’ Anthony Perez and Jérôme Cousin of Total Direct Energie made a break, working together to build a three minute gap. Perez was the first up the mountain on the initial two climbs, securing himself the polkadot jersey, with Cosnfroy close behind. At around 128km Cousins attacked and left Perez and Cosnfroy to be gradually pulled back and absorbed into the peloton.
Perez simply had to finish the stage to get his mountains classification win, but he experienced a series of misfortunes that prevented him from crossing the line as he flatted on the descent of the Col des Lèques then crashed into the team car. The French cyclist was forced to abandon the race with a broken collarbone—the climbing jersey will remain with Cosnfroy for another stage.
The last 35km
The final stretch of the race—a long gradual descent for 25km before the road turns into a slight incline in the final 10km—was controlled by Deceuninck – Quick-Step in the interest of setting up Sam Bennett. Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma were also present as Cousin was caught by the bunch with 16km to go.
The final sprint
In the last kilometre Sunweb took control of the front, setting up their sprinter Cees Bol for a win in the headwind. With 300m to go, Sam Bennett sprinted ahead of the Sunweb riders as a tired Peter Sagan attempted and failed to challenge him.
The victory looked to be Bennett’s when, from out of the camera frame, Caleb Ewan put down a massive attack, zipping around everyone in front of him and pulling through the finish with almost a bike length on a visibly disappointed Bennett.
The Australian was moving at almost 70km/h in his final sprint—uphill and into a headwind. The win, Ewan’s fourth in the Tour de France, comes at a good time for Lotto-Soudal, as the team was reduced from eight to six riders when Philippe Gilbert crashed and broke a knee and John Degenkolb missed the time cut in the first stage.
🔎 To have any chance of winning, a sprinter's bike must be perfect!
🎬 Take a look at how Lotto-Soudal make sure @CalebEwan has the best tools possible
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) August 31, 2020