Ewan’s victory confirmed him as the best talent in the Grand Tour sprint. “It’s the biggest race in the world and it’s the one every rider wants to win in,” said the Australian, winner in Toulouse, Nîmes and Paris in 2019. “I’m so happy to get another victory and to prove that the last year was not just a fluke.
The success lifted the clouds of discouragement from his Lotto-Soudal team after what his manager, Marc Sergeant, called “a few terrible days of misery”. Even before the start of the Tour, the Belgian team were forced to send support staff home after two failed tests for Covid-19, while star drivers Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb were knocked out by accidents during the first chaotic step.
While some were still recovering from injuries sustained during Saturday’s crash-fest and others remembered the first arrival at the top of the Tour at Orcières-Merlette, the peloton was happy to ride at the pace of the lap. The soporific day-long race only came to life in the last half hour.
Previously, a three-way break had slipped into the first mile but the French trio – Anthony Perez, Jérôme Cousin and Benoît Cosnefroy – had divergent interests, with Cousin seeking a stage victory and Perez and Cosnefroy battling over the summits.
As his companions hesitated, a frustrated cousin had no choice but to go ahead alone with 130 kilometers to go, but the 31-year-old got used to long, lonely walks, having spent long periods of bicycle lockdown. Portugal.
But Perez, who had secured the King of the Mountains jersey, saw his ambitions dramatically thwarted when disaster struck the descent of the Leques. The French, chased through the peloton after a puncture, crashed into his team car at 60 km / h and broke his collarbone, forcing him to abandon the Tour.
Forty kilometers from Sisteron, the climbs of the day behind them, the peloton picked up speed and finally rolled into a tired Cousin to prepare for the inevitable competition of the final sprint. “I can’t win in a sprint or in the high mountains, so I have to try my luck on this kind of stage,” said Cousin. “Today I wanted to have fun, that’s also what I like about the bike.”
Alaphilippe, meanwhile, remained tucked into the front runner and safely defended his lead in the overall standings, but he will face his toughest test yet when Tuesday’s arrival at the ski resort of Orcières-Merlette, which should be the first major meeting for the main contenders.
“We defended the yellow jersey today and we will do it again tomorrow,” he said. “Tomorrow [Tuesday] It’s a big day and there is a big climb until the finish. We’re going to take it day by day and see what happens. “
“Alaphilippe is even able to extend the gap tomorrow,” said Egan Bernal’s teammate Michal Kwiatkowski. “But there are opportunities to take that yellow jersey away from him. There will be runners who will try it. I guess we’ll see a dynamic final tomorrow, but it’s not the hardest day if you look at the entire three weeks. ”
Meanwhile, race organizers have confirmed that no cars or motorhomes will be allowed on the main climbs of the Tour. “There are 27 climbs which will be very limited with no cars or motorhomes allowed,” said Tour event director Thierry Gouvenou.
“We don’t want to ban the public but to limit it. We try to find the best way for runners to run, without putting them in close contact with others.