Aussie wins fiery Tour de France stage
The Tour de France is now twice as nice for Caleb Ewan after the Aussie jumped his rivals to snare a second stage win in front of his elated young family.
With Stage 16 starting and finishing in the city of Nimes, Ewan snuck out hours before the race and rode the last 4km of the course.
With the fast men so evenly matched at this year's Tour, Ewan's homework proved a masterstroke and it laid the platform for him to become the first sprinter to win multiple road stages in the race.
The Australian debutant came from behind to beat Italian Elia Viviani and Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen on a sweltering day where the mercury reached 40C.
"When I looked at the finish this morning I knew they'd be two scenarios. I was either going to be too far back or in a good position and I was too far back," Ewan said.
"I already played in my mind what I would do in that situation. I thought, 'I'm going to back off through the roundabout and start my sprint early, run at the wheels and come past with speed.
"In the end my plan worked."
Ewan's wife Ryann and newborn daughter Lily watched his win from the Lotto-Soudal team bus. "We're very, very proud," Ryann said.
Probably the most special moment of my career so far❤️ My daughters due date was today but instead she was here to see me win a @LeTour stage! It wasn’t all bad that she was 6 weeks early😅 https://t.co/k021qVXmOl— Caleb Ewan (@CalebEwan) July 23, 2019
Ewan said knowing his young family was at the race gave him extra motivation.
"As a pro cyclist I don't think it gets too much better than this," he said.
"It's the pinnacle of our sport and all cyclists dream of winning here. It's going to be pretty cool when my daughter is old enough to understand that the first ever race she watched me at was the Tour de France and I also won the stage that day."
But it could have been very different, with Ewan admitting he nearly pulled the pin on trying for the win.
"Today I felt really bad, actually," Ewan said.
"I was getting dropped on the Cat 4 climb and I was thinking 'This is really a bad day for me, my legs don't feel good at all'.
"I was so close to pulling my teammate off the front because I thought there's no point pulling anymore because my legs are dead.
"But I've been in this position before where my legs come good by the end so I resisted doing that.
"Every sprinter, when they get a sniff of victory they have that extra adrenaline rush and you don't feel it in the legs and I had that today."
But on a day of tension, there were victims. Defending champion Geraint Thomas crashed with 131km still remaining and took skin off his elbow.
While Thomas was able to rejoin the peloton, Jakob Fuglsang wasn't as fortunate. The Dane, ninth overall, hit the road hard with 28km to go and was forced to abandon the race.
Fuglsang's withdrawal means Richie Porte moves up to 10th on general classification ahead of Wednesday's 200km Stage 17 journey to Gap and the three consecutive days in the Alps that will decide the Tour.