The 22-year-old had cause to raise both hands as he did but conceded a young man’s error at the end of the 153km race, which Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) surfed wheels and came from behind to win.
“I’m usually pretty good at sprinting all the way to the line, but he was coming with a fair bit of speed and I didn’t quite see him. It was a massive rookie mistake on my part,” Ewan said.
“I learnt [today] to sprint all the way to the line and probably throw to the line, even if I think I’ve got it.”
Ewan wasn’t certain if he’d even be in the mix following a late crash in stage one, from which he was still nursing a stiff shoulder at the start line in Maryah Island. There wasn’t a hint of doubt though in the finish, which Orica-Scott commanded, leading into the final bend to provide Ewan with an open road to the line.
“It’s embarrassing more than anything and now I have to go back to my team and explain what I did,” Ewan said. “They really supported me from the start, even when I told them it was unlikely I would sprint today.
Like you saw in the end, they gave me a perfect lead-out. It’s full credit to them because Cav [Mark Cavendish], Kittel and [Andre] Greipel all have their best lead-out men here, we took it to the front and they couldn’t come around us in the end. It was my stuff-up that really cost us.”
Topflight German sprinter Kittel was sympathetic toward the Australian, sure he wouldn’t make the same mistake in his final opportunity for victory on Sunday.
“When you don’t sprint until the line comes of course it can give me the opportunity to use those extra centimetres to make a difference,” Kittel said. “I think it’s one of the mistakes every sprinter makes, and I’m sure it will never happen again to Caleb.
“I can say I’m very happy I still believed until the last moment in my chances.”
Tour leader Cavendish had been sat on Ewan’s wheel in the final but was unable to come around the burgeoning fast-man, whose aerodynamic style has been compared to that of the Manxman.
“I’ve never sprinted off Caleb before and it’s the first time I can understand why it’s hard for people to sit on my wheel,” Cavendish said. “When you’re so small there’s no difference once you move out of slipstream than actually being on his wheel.
“Today, without taking anything away from Marcel, Caleb was the strongest. It was a block headwind finish and I really couldn’t match him.
“My team were really good but ultimately I couldn’t win. I think Caleb was better, Marcel rode a better race and I ended up third.”