Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) launched early and sliced through a speeding selection of top sprinters to take his second stage win in the 2019 Tour de France in Nîmes. As Max Richeze (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), the final lead-out man for Elia Viviani, pulled off the front of the group, Ewan slithered past on his left, while Viviani launched to the right.
“To be honest I felt so bad today during the day,” Ewan said. “I think the heat really got to me and I was actually suffering so much that I was about to tell Maxime [Monfort] to get off of the front because I was suffering. I had extra motivation today, my daughter and my wife are here, so I’m so happy I could win for them.”
With one kilometer to go, Ewan and his team were arguably too far forward for the perfect lead-out. Then the Quick-Step team came past and he lost a few positions. Ewan, who had previewed the stage finish at the start of the day, knew that he could still win if he launched earlier than the others up front.
“I laid off the wheel and really took a run at it and start sprinting before the rest of the guys, and it worked,” Ewan said. “I said before it’s a dream to be here, and it was such a big dream to win one stage. And now I’ve won two, so I can’t believe it.”
Ewan’s momentum brought him to the line first, with Viviani in second. Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) crossed close behind in third, with the green jersey, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), in fourth. In his first Tour, Ewan now has two stage wins, after previously taking the victory on stage 11 in Toulouse.
The top of the general classification order remained unchanged. Further down, however, the GC race lost one contender when Jakob Fuglsang abandoned the race with a hand injury after crashing with several of his teammates and members of the Sunweb squad.
Nairo Quintana, who fell behind a split in the peloton in the final kilometers of the race, also lost over a minute. He now sits 9:30 behind the yellow jersey.
How the stage unfolded
On a scorchingly hot day, the break quickly established itself after the neutral rollout in Nîmes, and included Lars Bak (Dimension Data), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Lukasz Wisniowski (CCC). With 155km to race their lead was 1:30.
With 129km to race, Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) crashed alone, upending over his bike and going down on his left side. He slowly remounted, several teammates dropped back to check on him, and they were on their way. He then received medical treatment from the race doctor, and made his way back to the tail end of the field.
Unconcerned with the sprint points of the day, Bak led the breakaway group through the line with 112km to go in Vallérargues. Less than 1:30 behind, the sprinters took it more seriously, lining things out. Viviani was best of the rest, with his teammate Michael Morkov, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), and Sagan following closely behind to grab a few points.
With 100km to race, the sprinter teams Jumbo-Visma, UAE-Emirates, and Lotto-Soudal controlled the front of the peloton, 1:10 behind the break of five.
Bak also took the single point on offer at the Category 4 Côte de Saint-Jean-du-Pain, 1:10 ahead of the peloton. Not long after their lead was a mere 45 seconds with still 65km to race.
As the race heated up, with 26km to race, a crash took down several riders from Astana and Sunweb as the field passed through a roundabout. The worst among them was Jakob Fuglsang, who removed his helmet, waved goodbye to his teammates, and walked off the course and into the ambulance. He had been sitting ninth overall in the GC standings.
As the hot winds kicked up as the route returned to the city streets of Nîmes, and with just over 2km to race, the peloton swarmed the breakaway riders and turned up the pace to set up the sprinters.