• Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan celebrates his first ever Tour de France victory in Toulouse, France. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
After a handful of near-misses, Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan finally collects a long-awaited Tour de France stage win in his race debut.
Cycling Central

18 Jul 2019 - 6:54 AM  UPDATED 18 Jul 2019 - 7:10 AM

At just 25 years of age, Tour de France debutant Caleb Ewan (Soudal Lotto) completed the Grand Tour stage win hat trick after winning the Stage 11 bunch sprint in Toulouse.

Ewan out-muscled some of pro cycling's best sprinters, including Stage 7 winner Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), Stage 4 winner Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Stage 5 winner and current points leader Peter Sagan (BORA-Hansgrohe), who is aiming for a record-owning seventh green jersey at the Tour.

Ewan had recorded four podiums, including three third-place results and a runner-up, with the latest—a third on Stage 10—coming on Monday before the race's first rest day.

"To be honest, I can't believe it. I've been close in the last four sprints that I've done, and my team never lost faith in me and I never lost faith in my sprint.

"I knew if everything came together I could be the fastest on the day, and I think today I showed that."

TDF 2019: De Buyst cops elbow, ends up in ditch

Ewan found himself losing contact with the bunch after a crash involving team-mate Jasper De Buyst inside the final 15 kilometres held up the sprinter and nearly foiled his chances again.

"With about 10k to go, I got caught behind my team-mate Jasper, who crashed, so I was really at the back of the bunch. Roger [Kluge] came back for me and he basically took me from the back of the bunch to Groenewegen's wheel in the last few kilometres.

"Once I was there I had a bit of time to recover and luckily I had the legs in the end to win."

TDF 2019: Winning moment

Ewan's lead-out Kluge admitted to SBS that despite a plethora of podiums in the first half of racing, time was running out to claim a victory at this year's race.

"It was a big goal to come here," said Kluge. "It took a few days longer than the Giro, so we knew there were not too many chances left [for a sprint win at this year's Tour]. We took every opportunity we had here. We were close the last two, so we still knew he had the legs.

"Even when he was behind the crash with 15k to go, we still stayed calm, stayed concentrated and I was able to bring him up again and drop him on the wheel of Groenewegen in the last two or three kilometres and from there he did a perfect final for him."

The pairing of Ewan and his lead-out Kluge had expected to race the Tour last year for Mitchelton-Scott, but the Australian-registered WorldTour team's decision to place a priority on its general classification ambitions left the duo on the outside looking in—and perhaps with something to prove.

TDF 2019: Caleb's Lead-Out Man

"He was ready last year to win a stage at the Tour already, but everybody knows the story, so we didn't go to the Tour," Kluge said. "This year we had a good preparation, good season so far. He took a win in not every race but the important ones, in the giro, even the little one [ZLM Tour] where he beat Groenewegen.

"Here he came close on the other day, but still [had] the feeling he can beat him. So he stayed confident. Today we are all super, super happy. Big achievement. Fantastic Tour for us."

Soudal Lotto general manager John LeLangue also praised Ewan's Tour performance to date and believes the victory was just due.

"To have this victory with Caleb, because I think he was the most regular of all the sprinters," he told SBS after the win. "When you have four sprints and you can see he was there - he deserved to have this victory. For all he has done since the beginning of the season working on this, and that's the Tour de France, totally different."

TDF 2019: Ewan's Boss

Ewan's Soudal Lotto team-mates and officials are not the only to send out support following the sensational stage win. Fellow Aussie and 12 time Tour stage winner and three-time green jersey winner Robbie McEwen also offered up praise on social media.

Even Ewan's former team, which he spent the past six seasons since joining them as a stagiaire before switching to Lotto for 2019, offered up acknowledgment of the team's former star sprinter with a pre-race photo with team general classification contender Adam Yates (GBR).

"Caleb Ewan (LTS) takes the sprint win. It's job done for Adam Yates and MTS as they roll home in the bunch," tweeted Mitchelton-Scott, which has turned its attention toward GC ambitions with the likes of Yates, his twin brother Simon and Esteban Chaves, the latter of which is not racing the Tour in preparations for the Vuelta.

The win marks his seventh victory this season—36th as a professional—including two stage wins, third of his career, at the Giro d'Italia in May. Ewan also won a stage at the 2015 Vuelta. But according to the diminutive sprinter, nothing compares to winning a stage at Le Tour.

"There is no other race that I've dreamt of winning since I was a young kid," he said. "I can't believe it, the Tour de France is something so distant from Australia, we just watched on TV. You know, I can't believe I'm even here, and to win a stage is a real dream come true for me."

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