Australian Caleb Ewan is in contention to scoop the Giro d’Italia’s points classification crown after claiming victory in the 11th stage on Wednesday.
The Australian Lotto-Soudal rider registered his second stage win in a drag race of a sprint in Novi Ligure, the hometown of Italian great Fausto Coppi.
Tuesday’s winner Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ came home second to take the lead in the points classification ahead of Bora-Hansgrohe’s Pascal Ackermann, who had to settle for third on the day.
The triumph puts Ewan in contention for the points classification crown as he climbed to third place with 159 points.
Demare holds the cyclamen jersey on 194 points, while Ackermann is second on 193.
Ewan had jumped on to German’s wheel on the final approach and bided his time before launching again.
“(Ackermann’s) one of the quickest here and he was the first sprinter that came past me,” the Australian said.
“My guys got me in a good position and it made my run a whole lot easier. I could just sit there and then time my sprint to perfection.
“My team have done a great job all week and I’m a little bit more relaxed going into the stage with one win already. When you’re more relaxed you save more energy and everything seems to fall into place more easily.”
It is Ewan’s second stage win of this year’s race and third career victory on the Giro d’Italia after his win on stage seven in 2017.
The Sydney rider won the eighth stage on Monday and has had two other podium finishes in this year’s race. He’s also narrowly missed third place to finish fourth twice.
But the sprint finish had no impact on general classification, with UAE Team Emirates’ Valerio Conti keeping the overall leaders’ pink jersey with an advantage of one minute and 50 seconds over race favourite Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma.
Australian team Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates remains in 13th place, more than five-and-a-half minutes off Conti’s time.
Yates and others with time to make up will now look to Thursday’s stage as the more mountainous tests begin with a 158km stage from Cueno to Pinerolo, highlighted by the late ascent of Montoso, a category one test.
Those sprinters with an interest in the points classification may well be the only ones to take the start given the climbing to come as there are few other rewards open to them between here and Verona, and many of them have eyes on the Tour de France in July.
The only Australians in the top 50 of general classification are Ben O’Connor in 32nd place, 7:12 off the pace, and Jay McCarthy in 44th, almost 13 minutes behind Conti.