Ewan reminded everyone he is more than a pure fast-man on the short but steep uphill drag to the line, which featured a maximum gradient of 17 per cent inside the last 200m. The 24-year-old comfortably outsprinted neo-pro Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), who extended his overall lead.
“I knew coming into this tour that this could potentially suit me really well. It’s hard to tell on TV how steep it really is. Looking back at the guys who have won before, it’s really more like climber sprinters that do well here,” Ewan said.
“A lot of the guys I’m sprinting against are 80kg plus, and I’m 67 kilos. I’m probably a lot smaller than a lot of them and I guess my power to weight ratio is a benefit when the climb is 17 per cent.”
Ewan has had a mixed introduction at Lotto Soudal, which he joins this season as a team leader. He finished third in a bunch sprint on stage two here, aggrieved by tactics from UAE Team Emirates. The 24-year-old celebrated a stage win at the Tour Down Under last month but was relegated for head-butting.
However, there was no denying this victory. Pre-race favourite Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) suffered an untimely mechanical in which his derailleur snapped off, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) got caught up in a late crash that left Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) with shredded kit.
“There were a few times there when I was in trouble. There was a split just before the first climb and then I was pretty tired there. I got back in and recovered a little bit, started feeling good again and then was in really good position at the bottom of it [Hatta Dam]. I guess I was a man on a mission today. I felt good sprinting up there. I’m happy to get the win,” Ewan said.
The 194km stage featured two punchy summits within the final 20km, and then 3km of continuous climbing to the line. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) fancied himself for the stage win and attacked solo with about 10km remaining but the move didn’t stick. Roglic fell short on for line honours but was happy to extend his overall race lead on Valverde by seven seconds.
“If I could have, there was a lot of space, I would also accelerate like that, but he [Ewan] is a fast sprinter and he did a really good job,” Roglic said. “It was, like yesterday, the first time for me here. I saw some videos but still it’s a big wall, the last 200m, and it was just a fight to get as fast as possible to the top.
“The thing is you have to approach it like you want to win the race because either way I have to go full gas. If I go for some result that we get at the end, or if I go for 50th position, the wall is the same, steep for everyone and it’s a fight to the end.”