Second across the line and at the head of the pack chasing late breakaway Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) in Olbia on Friday, on Saturday in Tortolì, the young Australian was left to settle for ninth. What made it all the more frustrating was that few would have predicted beforehand that stage 2, with more than 3,000 metres of vertical climbing, would end in a 100-strong bunch sprint. But Ewan made it through the 220km stage and feeling more than strong enough to go for the win, only for disaster to strike within sight of the finishing gantries.
Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) was the first to launch the sprint, on the right, and Ewan was just pulling out to go with the Colombian, when his foot came out. Lotto Soudal's André Greipel went on to win. Gaviria finished fourth, with Ewan ninth across the line. As Ewan pointed out afterwards, his mishap occurred exactly when there was no chance of recuperating his losses.
"To be honest I can't exactly remember, I don't know if it was Greipel or Gaviria that I kind of bumped into, but when I bumped into them my foot came out of the pedal," Ewan told reporters later.
"Obviously at that point in the race, it's going to pretty hard to get your foot back in and be sprinting again. I'm devastated to be honest."
On the point of starting his own final drive for the line, Ewan said he was "Not sure how the pedal came out, all happens pretty quickly, one minute I was sprinting, next I was one-footed."
On the plus side, Ewan argued, after just 48 hours in the Giro d'Italia, he has already shown that he has solid sprint condition. "If I can take something out of the last two days, it is my form, I've felt really good." It was, Ewan said later, hard to tell how other sprinters were going yet for sure, but on two days' evidence, he estimated he was amongst the top five of this year's Giro fastmen.
What few people had expected was that the ultra-hilly stage, a second category climb in the final hour and a long, fast descent into Tortolì, would end in a bunch sprint. "It was a stage that could have gone either way, but I think the GC teams didn't want to do anything because it's way too early," Ewan reflected. "They were happy for Bora to control it." He described the day's racing as "solid but not too bad."
"I think both days we've had a pretty solid headwind, also the roads here are quite dead as well. Tomorrow might be a tailwind so we'll see some faster speeds," he said of stage 3, where a bunch sprint widely predicted. And after Saturday's frustration and Friday's near-miss, on Sunday Ewan will surely be looking for some sporting revenge.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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