Caleb Ewan won Stage 11 of the ongoing Tour de France in a photo finish after a feisty bunch sprint in Poitiers saw Peter Sagan relegated after barging Wout van Aert near the barriers.
Boxed out on the slight uphill drag to the line, Australian pocket-rocket Ewan (Lotto Soudal) on Wednesday kept his cool before timing his sprint to perfection to power past Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in the middle of the road while Sagan and van Aert clashed to his right.
The four riders came home in a line separated by less than half a wheel, with Ewan’s superior lunge the difference as the 26-year-old notched his second win of the race.
But as he and Ireland’s Bennett pumped fists after a thrilling finale, Jumbo-Visma’s van Aert and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sagan were busy trading insults after an apparent shoulder barge by the Slovakian helped him to second place.
After consulting the footage, the race jury announced that Sagan was relegated to the back of the group for his dangerous manoeuvre – elevating Bennett to second place and van Aert to third. The decision was a massive blow for Sagan’s chances of winning an eighth green jersey in nine years, with Bennett now opening up a huge 68-point lead at the top of the standings.
In the battle for yellow, van Aert’s teammate Primoz Roglic retained race lead on a day of inaction for the GC hopefuls. The Slovenian leads Colombia’s Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) by 21 seconds and Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) by 28 seconds as the race heads towards the hills of the Massif Central.
“It was very, very hectic,” Ewan said after the fifth Tour win of his career. “I had a real desire to win today after the disappointment of yesterday, and I wanted to repay my teammates for all the effort they had put in. I didn’t know I’d won but I saluted just in case – I was looking down as I lunged with the bike so I wasn’t sure. I hope to get through the mountains alright and have another go in Paris.”