Caleb Ewan’s face said it all as he crossed the line on stage 3 of the Tour de France and whizzed straight back to his team bus, hopping off the bike and onto the stairs in one swift movement.
He wasn’t gesticulating wildly. In fact, he was still and composed. But he wore the stone-faced expression of a man who has almost grown accustomed to things going wrong.
It’s been that sort of season for Ewan, who has barely had a clean run at a sprint all year. After having his rear derailleur damaged on stage 2, he was forced towards the barriers in Sønderborg on stage 3. Moving right, he had to stop sprinting to make sure he didn’t hit the barriers and crash.
“I was definitely squeezed,” Ewan told reporters after he’d showered and collected his thoughts.
“They started sprinting in the middle of the road, then the right side was free so I went to the right but then they all went down the right side.”
The sprint was launched when QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl lead-out man Michael Mørkøv swung aside and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) launched for the line with 200 metres to go. He moved towards the right-hand side of the road as he neared the line, but it was Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) who was tracking Van Aert who ended up blocking Ewan’s path.
“I think it started with Van Aert but then Sagan a bit more of a dramatic swing to the right.”
Ewan was clearly aggrieved and felt he was “a couple of centimetres” from crashing heavily. He suggested that the deviation from the sprinting line could be enough to warrant punishment.
“If I kept sprinting and didn’t brake, then I run into the barrier and of course something would happen. The rules are always interpreted differently. In some races they would get disqualified, in some races they won’t get disqualified.
“Who knows what the rules are. They sprinted off their line but that’s sprinting. There’s always riders sprinting off line.”
Ewan came to the Tour de France after once again lining up at the Giro d’Italia, but whereas he collected two stages in Italy last year, he endured what he described as “the Giro from hell” this May. The Tour de France is quickly shaping up the same.
“It’s frustrating. I feel like I just haven’t had the best of luck,” he said.
“For sure I had the legs to win. I started sprinting at the same time as Dylan [Groenewegen]. If we drag race we are similar speeds, so I would have gone close. I’m not saying I would have won but I would have contested it.”
Ewan travels from Denmark to France with the Tour circus on Sunday evening before a rest day on Monday. The race then continues with another potential sprint opportunity in Calais on Tuesday’s stage 4. For all the frustration, Ewan remains optimistic that his luck will change between here and Paris.
“The positive thing is my form’s good, the team’s good, so for sure when my luck turns it will go my way,” he said.
“As long as you’re confident with your form, it’ll have to go my way one day.”