Caleb Ewan can’t catch a break (except from a rival team car)

Another crash at a key moment dashed Ewan's hopes on stage 13 of the Tour de France.

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Another potential sprint stage, another crash for Caleb Ewan. This is a Tour de France without many chances for riders of his ilk, in a Grand Tour season with few sprint opportunities in total. The sprints click past and Ewan just can’t catch a break.

The corner in question came with just over 65 kilometers to go in stage 13, a lumpy ride from the base of Alpe d’Huez at Bourg d’Oisans to the baking hot hills of Saint-Étienne. Though far from a guaranteed sprint stage, both Alpecin-Deceuninck and Lotto Soudal kept the break within grasping distance. It looked set up for a Ewan launch.

Somebody clipped a wheel and Ewan was sent tumbling as the road cut hard left. He was pulled up by a random man in a blue shirt, surrounded by teammates who stopped immediately (or crashed themselves), and rose to his feet holding his left arm and left knee. He hobbled to the side of the road, his left leg clearly causing pain, and sat for a minute composing himself.

After a fair amount of time sitting on a road block, Ewan remounted and then jumped behind an Alpecin team car, eventually making his way up to the long line of team cars behind the peloton. It looked like he would soon regain contact with the bunch but the crash had done its damage. He pulled the plug on chasing with 50 kilometers remaining.

Getting back took a bit of help. There’s quite a bit of ‘you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours’ between sprint teams at the Tour de France, as they often combine forces in pursuit of a shared goal – getting the whole peloton to a finish line for a sprint, or getting their sprinters across the line before time cut. That friendliness was on display as Ewan sat behind the Alpecin team car for much of his trip back up to the peloton. He’s less likely to get hammered by the jury for riding the bumper of a different team, particularly a rival sprint team, and the directors all know it. Plus Alecin needed Lotto to keep chasing the breakaway, and Lotto wouldn’t with Ewan off the back.

The Lotto car was helping in its own way. According to French TV, the Lotto car sat well back and got its elbows out in the middle of the road, preventing the commissaire moto from reaching Ewan and the Alpecin car. When the commissaire did eventually make it to Ewan, words were exchanged with the Alpecin car, the occupant of which responded with a few choice hand gestures.

Sprint teams may not give each other an inch in the final five kilometers, but they know it’s best to make friends elsewhere.

It was not Ewan’s first sprint stage disappointment. He crashed out of last year’s Tour de France on stage three, and then hit the deck again to kick off this year’s Giro d’Italia, clipping Biniam Girmay’s wheel at the end of stage 1 after positioning himself well for the tough uphill finale. He pulled out of the Giro after stage 11 and came home with zero stage wins, calling the race his “Giro from hell.”

In this Tour, he missed opportunities in Denmark, caught out by bad positioning, and again in northern France. Then he crashed on stage 5, the Roubaix day. There have been few opportunities since then, until today. And he hit the deck again.

Ewan came into this season with a goal of taking a stage win in all three grand tours. He took home none from the nightmare Giro, and with today’s crash, only two true sprint stages remain in the Tour de France. Ewan simply can’t catch a break.

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