Tour de France 2020

Tour de France stage 3 roundtable: Ewan’s unstoppable slalom sprint

Is pocket rocket Caleb Ewan the most exciting sprinter in the pack? On the flip side, where's Peter Sagan? And what does Tuesday's summit finish have in store? Let's get some takes!

Caleb Ewan made it count at the Tour de France Monday, ducking and diving his way through the pack to take one of the few opportunities available for the sprinters.

The pint-sized Australian freelanced his way through a whos-who of talent to come past Giacomo Nizzolo, Sam Bennett, a rapidly-fading Peter Sagan, and a handful of other fast men. Ewan’s only 26 – how far can he go?

The sprint played out after the peloton snoozed and cruised through an easy day after the dramas of the weekend. But what do they have in store Tuesday, where they will contend with the race’s first mountaintop finish?

Let’s roundtable!

Ewan slalomed his way through a busy field with an unstoppable sprint. At 26 years old and with three Tour wins already on his palmarès, could he be the next superstar sprinter?

Ewan looked unstoppable in his madcap sprint. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.
Ewan looked unstoppable in his madcap sprint. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.

Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): While Monday’s sprint didn’t include the full cream of the sprinting crop, with Dylan Groenewegen, Pascal Ackermann, and Fernando Gaviria all waiting for the Giro, Ewan looked mighty impressive. He seems to be a true “modern” sprinter that can win from a number of scenarios, from a bunch gallop to an uphill kick, and he can do so without a teammate. He’s certainly one of the fastest and most versatile sprinters in the bunch, and exciting to watch. Hopefully, he’s got many more years left in those legs.

Fred Dreier (@freddreier): I suppose it depends on your definition of “super sprinter.” I think Ewan definitely has more Tour de France stage wins in him, and with four now I wouldn’t be surprised to see him surpass 10 in his career. He’s only 26 years old, so he has a few more years for him to hit his prime. And he’s shown himself capable of contending for the win at Milano-Sanremo. But let’s not forget that this Tour de France has a weak sprint field. And, there are top sprinters coming up behind him, namely Dylan Groenewegen and Fabio Jakobsen. So, his domination of bunch sprints is hardly guaranteed going forward.

Dan Cavallari (@browntiedan): Ewan has already ascended. His performances last year at the grand tours was just the beginning. Now he’s hitting his stride, and at just the right time. He proved masterful at weaving his way to victory here, which to me speaks to his awareness and absolute gutsiness. He outsmarted the best sprinters in the world and read the path to victory perfectly. Right now Ewan is the fastest sprinter in the peloton. “Super sprinter” indeed.

Sagan went too early in the sprint and faded fast. He’s been there and thereabouts in the intermediate sprints. Is the Slovakian’s star starting to fade?

Is Sagan a fading force? Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images.
Is Sagan a fading force? Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images.

Fred: Peter Sagan’s Tour de France is aimed squarely at the green jersey, and that means targeting the intermediate sprints. Thus, he’s going to be missing a few watts in the big battle to the finish line. He’s already a few mph slower than Caleb Ewan in a drag race, so it’s no surprise to see him get beaten. Plus, Ewan sat in the pack for the intermediate sprints, while Sagan charged ahead. That said, Peter Sagan has been a world-beating superstar for going on a decade now, and the body cannot do that forever. My guess is he’s likely losing some of this top-end sprint speed, since that oomph tends to be highest with younger riders.

Dan: While Sagan certainly doesn’t look like the dominant force he’s been in recent years, I certainly wouldn’t count him out. There are still plenty of opportunities left for him to shine in this Tour, and don’t forget, he’s Giro-bound after the Tour. As any good sprinter knows, timing is everything.

Jim: Sagan knows how to win a green jersey and it’s all about consistently harvesting a few points here and there – which seems to be what he’s doing. That said, he has looked a little blunt since racing restarted, being a half wheel too far back to respond to Alaphilippe’s move at Sanremo and looking lethargic in the intermediate sprints so far. He’s not gone yet, but that lack of kick and a few tactical miscues – like Monday’s far-too-early sprint – suggests there may not be many years left in the tank.

It’s the first summit finish on stage 4 Tuesday. How do you see it playing out?

Stage 4 will see the first summit finish of the race. Image: ASO
Stage 4 will see the first summit finish of the race. Image: ASO

Fred: The final climb is 7.1 kilometers at 6.7 percent, so I think Alaphilippe will keep the jersey. I see tomorrow’s stage as a skirmish between the GC riders. Nobody will fully commit, but everyone will test each other to see who is lacking the form to push things harder once we get into the Pyrenees and Alps.

Jim: I can see this being a cagey one. The slopes of Orcières-Merlette aren’t hard enough to force a major selection, so I can see any time differences coming from final-kilometer darts and dashes from the GC guys rather than long-range moves. What could be of interest is to watch which of Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers’ armada of domestiques takes up the pacing duties through the start of the climb and whether either shows any glimmers of weakness.

Dan: Alaphilippe will want to keep the fireworks shooting high, not only for himself but for French glory too. I expect he’ll animate the race late in the day. But it’s unusual for a stage like this so early in the Tour, so it’s a great opportunity for the GC contenders to shake out their legs. I suspect Jumbo-Visma will take another crack at controlling the race here, and Ineos Grenadiers will once again sit back and observe. Tomorrow will be a telling moment for what plays out in the upcoming mountain stages.