As far as luck goes Caleb Ewan hasn't seen much of it at this Giro d'Italia. The Australian was one of several sprint favourites unaccounted for in the stage 5 dash to the line won by Arnaud Démare (Groupama FDJ) in Messina.
The Lotto Soudal rider later confirmed that he had an untimely mechanical at the base of the only ascent, on an otherwise relatively flat stage, that cost him dearly.
"I had to change my wheel at the bottom of the climb of Portella Mandrazzi. It was the worst possible timing. The team did what they could to come back, but it was impossible against all the other teams," Ewan wrote in a post on Twitter after the stage.
The 174km stage between Catania and Messina included a category 2 climb over the Portella Mandrazzi, a 19.6km ascent with an average gradient of 4%, with 100km still to go after cresting its peak.
Alpecin-Fenix set the pace on the ascent in an attempt to distance the sprinters. They were successful in shedding Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) but Ewan was already off the back after he had stopped to take a wheel change.
His teammate Rüdiger Selig stayed behind to help pace him back up to the field, but by that time it was too late to close the gap. Neither Ewan nor Cavendish made it back up to the front of the race.
Démare was also distanced later on the climb but his team fell back to help him chase back into the peloton to contest the bunch sprint. Groupama-FDJ set a fast pace in the final 50km to make sure Cavendish and Ewan struggled to regain contact.
"What can you do, you just have to try," Cavendish said after the stage. "In a different situation, if they happen, you'd probably come back. For instance, we were 30 seconds behind FDJ and Caleb was behind us – ironically if all of us were together we would probably have come back."
It's been a tough first week of the Giro d'Italia for Ewan who crashed after touching Biniam Girmay's (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) wheel in a curve in the final 50 metres of stage 1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) won that stage and took the first leader's jersey and Girmay finished second with Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) in third. Apart from several abrasions, he came away without any severe injuries.
He then finished eighth in the stage 3 sprint in Balatonfüred.
Ewan is a five-time stage winner at the Giro d'Italia across the 2017, 2019 and 2021 editions. He came into this race with sole focus on stage wins and he, along with the event's other sprint favourites, will have another chance on stage 6 into Scalea on Thursday.
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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