Caleb Ewan has his second stage win of this year’s Tour de France. The Australian became the first fast finisher to double up in the 2019 race, winning ahead of Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen.
Besides the final stage into Paris stage 16 starting and finishing in Nîmes provided the sprinters with one last genuine opportunity to take the stage honours. The course was 177km in length and although possessing a couple of lumpy elements, it was expected to be a day that the sprinters would seize with both hands.
Stephane Rossetto of Cofidis and Alexis Gougeard of AG2R La Mondiale quickly escaped up the road after the flag was pulled in and were joined by Lars Bak of Dimension Data, Lukasz Wisniowski of CCC Team and Paul Ourselin of Total Direct Energie. The group weren’t expected to enjoy a large lead, and for a time the peloton seemed reluctant to allow the break much more than 1.30mins of an advantage, even keeping them as close as within 70 seconds for a time.
Eventually the break were able to extend their advantage out to 2 minutes as Jumbo-Visma and Lotto Soudal kept their eyes on the front of the race. But while the race was unfolding at the front, Team Ineos had a brief scare with 129km to go as Geraint Thomas was thrown from his bike as the peloton were going around a right hand bend. The Brit looked largely unscathed and unharmed but for a couple of scrapes, and along with Dylan van Baarle and Jonathan Castroviejo he worked at bridging the 1 minute gap that had built up to the peloton. There was little concern about Thomas being able to make it back and sure enough he was back in the peloton quickly.
The breakaway didn’t contest the intermediate sprint with Bak leading them across the line. In the peloton, however, Deceuninck-Quick Step were eager to take the remaining points, with Sonny Colbrelli and Peter Sagan also close at hand. Sagan did just enough to finish behind Viviani, Michael Mørkøv and Colbrelli with Thomas De Gendt surprisingly mixing in with the sprinters to take 10th place.
Jumbo-Visma and Lotto Soudal continued to press on and keep the break on a very tight leash with UAE Team Emirates surprisingly in amongst the front runners as well with the intent to line up Alexander Kristoff later on in the stage. The bunch were particularly ruthless today, with the break’s lead down to beneath a minute with 70km to go before edging back out to 1.10mins. With Team Ineos then taking charge at the front of the bunch alongside Movistar the time gap began to descend rapidly.
Jumbo-Visma made their way back to the front and held the break’s lead at 40 seconds with 27km remaining. While the catch was imminent for the break disaster struck for Astana, with Jakob Fuglsang hitting the deck alongside Team Sunweb’s Cees Bol. Fuglsang was able to stand again but there was an air of concern among the teammates as the rider who was sitting ninth overall walked his way to the ambulance, sending his teammates onward with his race sadly over.
With 20km to go the gap was 43 seconds. The break had done well to withstand the peloton until now, and they continued to dig deep, keeping the pace high through 10km and then even 5km. Their resilience forced others to get involved in pursuit of positioning as well as the break. Finally with 2km to go the catch was made and the peloton continued on with Katusha-Alpecin, UAE Team Emirates, Team Sunweb and co all mixing it with the big sprint names.
Lotto Soudal led out the sprint with Dylan Groenewegen and Caleb Ewan on his wheel, but then Mørkøv surged forward with Richieze and Viviani poised to strike. When Viviani finally struck for home, Ewan was forced to go around the outside of the slowing Richeze, with Groenewegen following the Australian. Powering forward, Ewan won well, ahead of Viviani with Groenewegen and Peter Sagan third and fourth.
George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma had a pretty quiet day, crossing the line in a group that conceded 2.08mins, with Scully leading home a small group including Sebastian Langeveld and Omar Fraile.