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Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) bounced back from a disappointing result in the opening stage of the Tour Down Under to take a convincing win on stage 2, Wednesday.
The Australian sprinter powered past defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) and his leadout on the grinding uphill finish in Stirling to take the stage and the overall. Nathan Haas (Cofidis) finished third. Overnight GC leader Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) finished in the group after struggling for momentum in his sprint.
Ewan knew the finish well having also won on the same climb in 2018 and was able to time his move to jump past Mitchelton-Scott’s leadout and win by a convincing margin.
On Tuesday’s stage, Ewan was left disappointed with a pack finish having been caught out of position in the final. Wednesday’s stage 2 win was redemption.
“I am so happy, especially after what happened yesterday, when we were absent in the final,” said Ewan. “We had a really good plan. We spoke about it for about one hour after yesterday’s stage one. We checked what we could do better. I have to say that the boys did absolutely a perfect job today. They did everything I asked for.”
After the final breakaway riders were caught with 25km to go, Ineos and Mitchelton-Scott controlled the race as they looked to keep GC contenders such as Impey, Simon Yates, and Rohan Dennis in contention, though Dennis was soon left chasing back after a puncture with 20km left.
Mitchelton-Scott swarmed the front in the final 10km of the race with around five riders on the front, protecting Impey. Ewan and Lotto-Soudal sat behind them, biding their time.
The run in to the final was disrupted by a large crash with 2km to go, taking sprinter Elia Viviani (Cofidis) out of contention, as well as bringing down Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Viviani and Porte rode to the finish without issue, though Yates nursed a heavy injury to his knee.
“It all happened right in front of me,” said Porte. “I was straight back on the bike and pushed on. I felt good today and the team is riding well.”
With hilly stages to come in the next few days, sprinters such as Ewan and Bennett are unlikely to hold on to the overall lead for much longer, at which point GC riders such as Porte and Impey will be looking to grab the GC lead. After stage 2, Porte is just 10 seconds back on Impey.
“I’m in a good position,” said Porte. “It’s a motivation. Daryl [Impey] is obviously going well. He was second on the stage today but it’s an uphill finish tomorrow. It’s harder this year, but the way Mitchelton are riding, they’ve got the team to do what they’re doing.”
Stage 3 finishes on the Paracomb climb, the first of two summit finishes of the race, and will see a shake-up in the GC.
“Tomorrow is difficult, it’s the ‘Queen Stage’ tomorrow,” said Impey. “It’s about going to the line and limiting the losses.”
Stage 2: Top 3
- Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal): 3:27:31
- Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott): S.T.
- Nathan Haas (Cofidis): S.T.
GC after stage 2
- Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal): 6:56:15
- Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step): S.T.
- Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott): +0:00:01