Caleb Ewan has set his sights high in this year’s grand tours, determined to sprint to stage wins at all three of them – but Australia’s star sprinter has got off to a disappointing start to his quest at the Giro d’Italia.
Targetting victory in an inviting-looking second stage on Sunday, the Lotto Soudal speedster missed the chance to position himself well enough for the sprint denouement in Novara on Sunday.
Caught out of position, he ended up easing down when it became clear he couldn’t win the stage, eventually finishing 10th as Belgian grand tour debutant Tim Merlier took the honours.
“We came into the last two kilometres a little bit too far back and every time we tried to move up, there was some slight corner, so the bunch was always going from left to right. We were kind of blocked a lot of the time,” Ewan explained after the race.
“In the crucial part in the last 500 metres, we were just too far back and it was hard to sprint from the position I was in.
“It was a little bit disappointing to start like that but I think we can learn from the mistakes we made and go again tomorrow.”
Up ahead, Merlier handed Alpecin-Fenix victory as he found the power to hold off Italian pair Giacomo Nizzolo and Elia Viviani at the end of the 179km stage from Stupinigi.
It was a record 10th second place in a Giro stage for Nizzolo, who has never won a stage of his home grand tour despite twice winning the points classification.
The sprint finish meant there were only minimal changes in the early general classification standings as set in Saturday’s opening time trial, with Filippo Ganna retaining the pink jersey for the Ineos Grenadiers.
The Italian stretched his advantage slightly to 13 seconds from Jumbo-Visma’s Edoardo Affini as he picked up three bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint.
Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Remco Evenepoel edged ahead of teammate Joao Almeida to move up to fourth, 20 seconds down, with a group of pink jersey hopefuls including Egan Bernal, Simon Yates and Vincenzo Nibali still bunched together with deficits of a little over 40 seconds.
Merlier launched his sprint early but nobody could find a way around the 28-year-old.
“I’m really happy, and really proud of it,” he said of the win. “The roundabout was really important but I saw we were in a good position. My only thought was ‘faster, faster, faster’. It was far to go from 250m but in the end it was enough.”
Dylan Groenewegen, racing for the first time since serving a nine-month ban following last year’s controversial crash at the Tour of Poland which left Fabio Jakobsen in a coma, finished fourth for Jumbo-Visma just behind Viviani.