Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) was one of the favourites for the first sprint finish at the Giro d’Italia. However, in the swerving high-speed final kilometres in the streets of Novara, the Australian was caught too far back and was unable to fight for victory.
Alpecin-Fenix's Grand Tour debutant Tim Merlier emerged from the chaos to win the stage, coming from behind to hit the front in the final 150 metres and hold off Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos), Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Ewan did his best to make up ground in the final kilometre but then eased up when he knew he had no chance of victory. He finished a disappointed tenth.
“We came into the last two kilometres a little bit too far back and every time we tried to move up, there was some slight corner, so the bunch was always going from left to right. We were kind of blocked a lot of the time,” Ewan explained post-race.
“In the crucial part in the last five hundred metres, we were just too far back and it was hard to sprint from the position I was in.
“It was a little bit disappointing to start like that but I think we can learn from the mistakes we made and go again tomorrow.”
Ewan has already won three stages at the Giro d’Italia, two in 2019 and one in 2017, and this year he hopes to take a stage victory in all three Grand Tours.
The 26-year-old has only had one win so far this season, stage 7 of the UAE Tour, but has delivered some impressive performances, most notably at Milan-San Remo.
He is a good climber compared to most sprinters as he showed on the Poggio at this year’s Milan-San Remo and so must fancy his chances on the hiller stage 3 from Biella to Canale in the hilly Langhe vineyards to the east of the Piedmont region.
The 190-kilometre stage is flat for half of its distance up to Asti, before being sprinkled with a peppering of climbs on the twisting roads through the vineyards.
The late, unclassified Guarene climb is a major concern for the sprinters. It peaks at 15km left to race and averages 7 per cent for 2.6 kilometres. The climb could be a launch pad for attacks from puncheurs or even overall contenders, or give Ewan a chance to make up for his mistakes on stage 2.
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