(Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

How a hay bale ruined Caleb Ewan’s day on the cobbles

When Caleb Ewan went down, so did Roglič and Haig.

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Caleb Ewan tenderly picked himself up, wincing as he remounted his bike. The Lotto Soudal sprinter had been looking comfortable on the cobbles, moving to the front of the peloton and riding second wheel behind a Toms Skujiņš on a mission. And then, this.

Of the crashes and catastrophes that shaped stage 5 of the Tour de France, perhaps none was as capricious as the hay bale at the roundabout. The peloton was mobilising, trying to chase back the escape group off the front while the GC riders maneuvered for time gains. Lotto Soudal doesn’t have a GC card to play, but it did have a couple options for the stage win. Florian Vermeesch finished second on the cobbles at Paris-Roubaix 2021, and Caleb Ewan – the team’s fastman – had never ridden on the Roubaix cobbles before, but seemed perfectly at home. 

The peloton split to navigate a roundabout, with a camera moto filming the action roaring through ahead of them. That moto clipped a protective bale of hay on the exit of the roundabout – according to spectators, there was no time to move it back.

That set off a chain reaction. The hay bale moved slightly onto the road, then was brushed by Stefan Küng, which moved it slightly further, and then, about 15 riders back, the crashes began. 

You can only just see Ewan in that shot – the small figure on the right in the red jersey – and you can’t see what befell him, but the crash that he was part of would end up being the most significant of the race so far.

As this spectator’s photo shows, while Ewan was tumbling to the ground – the hay bale clipped his back wheel, he said – a chain reaction had been set off. Primož Roglič was somersaulting onto his shoulder and into Jack Haig:

Roglič would lose more than two minutes in his hunt for yellow, much of that because he was sitting in a spectator’s folding chair (!) popping his dislocated shoulder back in (!!) Haig withdrew from the race for the second straight year. Ewan sat on the side of the road wondering what the hell had just happened.

After being checked by the race doctors for concussion, he was on his feet, then on his bike.

(Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Moments before, he’d looked a chance for a surprising result on his Tour cobbles debut. By day’s end, he was 153rd on the stage, battered and bruised but unbroken. “I was where I needed to be,” he explained to a reporter afterward, “and then there was a hay bale in the middle of the road.”

A slight pause, kind of dazed. “It was a bit of a nightmare.”

Yep, that sounds about right.

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