A fraught and crash-filled finale of stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia proved no obstacle for Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) to claim an impressive bunch sprint victory ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis).
Nizzolo and Viviani have both already been on the sprinters' podium in the Giro d’Italia in an identical order on stage 2 behind Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), but three days later Ewan leapfrogged ahead of the two Italians to clinch the fourth Giro d'Italia stage win of his career. Ewan has also won five stages at the Tour de France.
“The first one in a Grand Tour is always the hardest to get, so I hope there are a lot more to come,” the 26-year-old told reporters.
However, Ewan is looking for stage wins in all three Grand Tours and he also gave strong hints later on that he may quit the Giro around the halfway point to start building for July.
“For me it’s still too early to pull out of the Giro, I’ll see how I feel around stage 10 or 11,” Ewan said. “We’ll monitor the situation and then I want to prepare for the Tour de France, but I’ll definitely be here tomorrow [Thursday].”
In a separate interview, he also ruled out going for the points jersey, which again suggested it was likely he would leave the Giro early, a course of action he has already taken in 2019 immediately after winning stage 11, and also in 2017 and 2016.
Ewan said that he had not seen any of the crashes during the stage, which saw Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers) abandon the race and Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) lose a significant amount of time.
“The first half of the stage was easy, no stress, and then there were crosswinds and the final was quite dangerous,” he reflected.
“I think we did a good job to stay out of trouble. It’s always quite tricky for a big bunch on roads like these, but we can’t finish in the middle of nowhere either.
“The sprint to the last corner was straightforward, but the 20 kilometres before that were quite technical and we had to stay at the front because I didn’t want to get caught out by any accelerations. The team did a great job keeping me there and they did a great job of putting me in the position,” he added.
Ewan said that he concentrates so much on his sprinting at the end of a race that he doesn't recall all the details of the wins in and of themselves. He said that he never remembered “anywhere that I have won or what town it is. To be honest, I don’t even know where I am now.”
Possibly the trickiest moment of Ewan’s smooth and highly focussed path towards victory came when he and Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) briefly entangled close to the barriers just before the sprint began, with Merlier suffering a dropped chain.
Ewan said he did not think the two had actually collided, but that the two had been squeezed together when a rider began losing positions, and Merlier, in any case, did not blame the Australian afterwards for fighting for his sprint.
“It was a very technical finale, so it was very important to be in the right place, and I picked Tim’s wheel because he showed the other day [on stage 2] that he was the fastest.
“I was a little bit boxed in, but I saw an opening on the left and ducked through it so I could go for it.”
Ewan did not believe that the two actually physically made contact, although he said that he would need to look at the video of the finish to check. “We both had to move towards the barrier when a rider came back through the bunch, but I don’t think we touched,” he added.
Following Merlier’s mechanical, Ewan jumped through to Viviani’s back wheel, and then passed both the Cofidis racer and Nizzolo for his first win since the UAE Tour back in late February.
Ewan’s next opportunity will probably be in Termoli, in two days time, which would put the 26-year-old into double figures for Grand Tour stage wins. But come what may, Ewan’s 2021 Giro d'Italia is already on track.
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