SISTERON – A basketball player weaving through the defense. A skier dancing between the gates. A soccer player dribbling zig-zag toward the goal.
Australian rider Caleb Ewan borrowed the playbook from other sports as he slalomed through the bunch to win a sprint finish and claim the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday, while Julian Alaphilippe held onto the yellow jersey that he claimed with a dramatic stage victory a day earlier.
With about 100 meters to go, Ewan trailed five other riders before slinging himself through a narrow slice of road near the advertising barriers on the right side of the street. Then -- after more than five hours in the saddle -- Ewan darted to the left to overcome Sam Bennett and claim his fourth career stage win in the Tour by more than a wheel.
“I found my way through the wheels,” Ewan said. “Coming from behind, it’s a bit of a risk, but I found my way along the barrier and I came with a lot of speed and it worked.”
Living up to his nickname of “Pocket Rocket,” the 1.65-meter (5-foot-5) Ewan reached a top speed of 68.8 kph (42.7 mph) in the finale.
It was a perfectly timed acceleration.
“In the last k (kilometer) I was a bit too far forward so I dropped back a bit into the wheels," Ewan said. "That gave me time to rest the legs just a little before the last hit out,"
Irish champion Bennett, a teammate of Alaphilippe's at Deceuninck–Quick-Step, crossed second and European champion Giacomo Nizzolo came third -- both with the same time as Ewan.