Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan wins chaotic Tour de France stage finish; Peter Sagan penalized

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POITIERS, France (AP) — Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan secured his second stage victory at this year’s Tour de France in a chaotic dash to the finish Wednesday that saw Peter Sagan penalized for barging a rival.

Sagan, squeezed up against barriers on the right-hand side of the finishing straight, made room for himself by leaning his left shoulder into Belgian rider Wout Van Aert.

The irregular move cost Sagan his second place behind Ewan. The Slovakian was dropped back to 85th place.

Irish rider Sam Bennett was bumped up to second and Van Aert to third.

Afterward, Van Aert and Sagan had a sharp exchange of words.

“There wasn’t a gap and if you use your elbows to open it up, I think it’s completely against the rules,” said Van Aert, a two-time stage winner this year.

“It’s already dangerous enough and I was really surprised and shocked at the moment that I felt something,” he said. “Really scared.”

In the race for the overall win, Primoz Roglic stayed safe on the rolling ride to Poitiers to keep the race leader’s yellow jersey. The 167-kilometer (104-mile) stage started on France’s Atlantic coast.

Ewan skirted Bennett in the last meters (yards) and threw his front wheel across the line.

“It was very, very hectic,” said Ewan. “Quite crazy.”

The 25-year-old Ewan, racing for the Lotto Soudal team, also won Stage 3 and three stages at his inaugural Tour last year.

Sagan’s relegation also cost him dearly in his hunt for the Tour’s green jersey, awarded to riders who collect the most points in sprints along the route and at finishes. Losing second place cost Sagan 30 points and awarded them instead to Bennett.

Bennett and Sagan have been locked in a tight duel for that prize, repeatedly taking the jersey off each other. Sagan has a record seven green jersey titles from previous Tours but is now seeing Bennett get away from him, 68 points clear with few other opportunities for sprinters to shine before the final dash on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Sept. 20.

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Caleb Ewan wins Tour de France stage 3; contenders prep for summit finish

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Australian Caleb Ewan won stage three of the Tour de France in a bunch sprint, a day before the overall contenders are likely to battle in the Tour’s first summit finish.

Ewan earned his fourth career Tour stage victory, surging past several sprinters to edge Ireland’s Sam Bennett after five hours on the saddle. Peter Sagan finished fifth and took over the green jersey, leading the sprinter standings.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe remains in the yellow jersey. The top contenders to wear yellow in Paris in three weeks all finished with the same time, too.

Earlier in the stage, king of the mountains leader Anthony Perez broke his collarbone and abandoned the race after crashing into his team car after puncturing a tire.

Perez, a 29-year-old Frenchman, took the mountains lead mid-stage from countryman Benoit Cosnefroy and would have worn the polka-dot jersey for the first time on Tuesday.

Ewan, who won three stages in his Tour debut last year, came back from finishing last in the second stage on Sunday. After the first stage, his team, Lotto-Soudal, lost two of its eight riders to crashes — Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb.

“The last two days haven’t been great for us,” Ewan said. “Everyone stayed motivated. We all knew that if it all went right, then I can win the sprint. Everyone did their job today.”

The Tour continues Tuesday with the first of four summit finishes and a chance for general classification contenders to make an early impression. Coverage begins at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

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Geraint Thomas crashes, recovers; other pre-Tour de France favorite out in Stage 16

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NIMES, France (AP) — Crashing is becoming a bad habit for defending Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.

After hitting the ground twice over the past two weeks, the Welshman fell off his bike one more time on Tuesday as a heat wave engulfed the race ahead of grueling days in the Alps when the Tour will reach its climax.

Once again, Thomas was lucky enough to escape with bruises and scratches, but the timing of his crash in the rural hinterland of the antique Roman city of Nimes was unfortunate. Although Thomas quickly got back on his bike and did not lose time, crashes always have a lingering effect on riders’ bodies. It’s generally after 48 hours that the soreness reaches its peak, and that’s when he will be fighting in high altitude with rivals trying to take him off his perch.

Lagging 1 minute, 35 seconds behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe with the race now going into its five last stages, Thomas was caught off guard under a scorching sun about 40 kilometers into the stage won by Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan.

The peloton was not riding at full speed, but Thomas was surprised.

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“I just had one hand on the bars, and the gears jumped and jammed and I got thrown off my bike on a corner,” he said. “I knew the race wasn’t on so I just got back into the group. It’s just frustrating. It was such a freak thing.”

Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang, who stood ninth overall, was not as lucky and was forced to abandon the Tour with a left hand injury after falling late in the stage as the peloton pedaled past the picturesque town of Uzes.

Thomas, a former track specialist who transformed into a Tour de France contender after years spent working in support of four-time champion Chris Froome, has always been prone to crashing. Just last month, his preparation for the Tour was cut short by a spill during a race in Switzerland.

But he has also shown in the past that he can soldier on in pain. Six years ago when riding the Tour as Froome’s loyal teammate, Thomas fell off his bike on a Corsican road in the opening stage and broke his pelvis. But he kept racing for 3,000 kilometers to reach the finish.

He will need to be at the top of his form on Thursday for the start of an Alpine trilogy of stages including six climbs over 2,000 meters. This is when the race — the most exciting in the last decade — will be decided before Sunday’s ceremonial ride to Paris.

Sixteen stages out of 21 have been completed, but the suspense remains intact, with six riders separated by little more than 2 minutes. Behind Alaphilippe and Thomas, Steven Kruijswijk remained third, 1:47 off the pace and 3 seconds ahead of Thibaut Pinot. Thomas’ Ineos teammate Egan Bernal lags 2:02 behind and Emmanuel Buchmann has a 2:14 deficit.

Bernal, a Colombian and one of the best pure climbers in the Tour, played down Thomas’ crash and said the race in the Alps will suit him more than the Pyrenees, where both Ineos leaders conceded time to Pinot.

“He crashed but with no consequence and I don’t think he’ll suffer from it in the coming days,” Bernal said. “We’re approaching the Alps. The climbs there are longer and steeper. They’re more of the Colombian style of climbing. I’m ready and I feel good.”

Ewan said he suffered from the heat throughout the stage — temperatures soared as high as 40 degrees Celsius (40 F) — but it did not slow him down in the finale. The Australian Tour debutant edged Elia Viviani and Dylan Groenewegen to post his second stage win following his maiden success in Toulouse last week.

Earlier, riders tried to cool down with bottles of cold water against the backs of their necks as they pedaled on the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge set against a dramatic landscape of rocks, trees and water. Alexis Gougeard, Lukasz Wisniowski, Stephane Rossetto, Paul Ourselin and Lars Bak organized the day’s breakaway and had a maximum lead of 2 minutes.

After the group was caught two kilometers from the finish, Viviani was set up by his teammates and launched the sprint about 200 meters from the line but could not resist Ewan’s comeback.

“To be honest, I felt so bad today during the day. I think the heat really got to me,” Ewan said. “I was really suffering but I had extra motivation today because my daughter and wife are here. I’m so happy I could win for them.”

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