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Tour de France

Caleb Ewan hoping to turn Tour de France around with stage 19 victory

Australian sprinter is lanterne rouge in a race he wasn’t sure he’d be able to finish.

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Finally out of the mountains and with Paris on the horizon, Caleb Ewan is determined to make the most of the two remaining opportunities to land a sixth Tour de France stage win.

The Australian Lotto-Soudal rider started the Tour as one of the favorites for the sprints but limited opportunities, crashes, and many difficult moments have meant that his best performance to date was ninth place on stage 3 and 13th the day before that.

Since then he’s been only in the top 100 two times and started stage 19 on Friday as the lanterne rouge, or last rider on the general classification. It’s a reflection of how difficult an experience this year’s Tour has been.

However, being back on terrain that is more suited to his abilities gives him ambition and encouragement. “For today I’m 100 percent focused on this,” he said. “I hope I can win today, and after today’s stage I’ll re-focus for the Champs Élysées as well.”

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Stage 19 is almost completely flat but the fatigue of three weeks of racing plus exposed terrain and sidewinds complicate things for the sprinters and their teams.

“It’s going to be a little bit tricky, because we have a cross-tail wind the whole day,” he explained. “So it’s a perfect storm for echelons. We’ll see what happens. Our team is focused on today’s stage, so we’ll be up near the front. And if there’s a split, hopefully we’re in it.

“I think it is more the guys who don’t really have an objective today who will be down the back who will struggle the most.”

The day has featured a five man break which dropped to four riders, namely Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Mikkel Honoré (Quick Step), Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Victorious). Simmons then struck out alone and was clear heading into the final hour of racing.

Ewan said prior to the stage that he hoped the teams will keep things controlled and, with the riders heading towards a possible big gallop into Cahors, that is how things have been working out.

“Especially this Tour, there haven’t been many sprint opportunities,” he said before the start. “So I guess all the sprint teams will help control for a sprint. But you never know.”

Friday aside, Sunday gives another chance to add to the five stage victories he clocked up in 2019 and 2020. Winning on the Champs Élysées would echo his achievement three years ago, when he hit the line ahead of Dylan Groenewegen and Niccolò Bonifazio, but even making it to Paris is something he wasn’t certain about at points during the race.

That gives him a feeling of relief.

“I’m happy that we’ve finished all the big climbs of this Tour, and I’m happy I made it through,” he said. “Because there were a few times where I didn’t think I’d make it.”

He has, and he’ll use the two remaining opportunities to get as close as possible to an important win for himself and his team.