Anatomy of a botched sprint.
Ripping into Victor Harbor, final 300 meters, in perfect position behind his readout man Alex Edmondson, Tour Down Under race leader Caleb Ewan gets too clever.
He looks back and sees a gap open up behind with Bora Handgrophe’s Daniel Oss unable to hold the wheel. Ewan defies the win in so easy he can gift his teammate the victory and eases up just a tad.
Just to make extra sure, he looks right and left and suddenly its too late and his miscalculation becomes painfully clear in a non-second. Quickstep’s Elia Viviani is closing fast, faster than Ewan can get back on top of his gears.
Viviani blows past Ewan taking a surprise victory by two bike lengths. Phil Bauhaus of Sunweb jets past Ewan as Edmondson fades back to seventh place. The Australian pocket rocket fights for a third place and successfully snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.
Viviani was more than happy to drink Ewan’s champagne. “It’s not easy to come in January in good condition, so I think I never win in the early season like that. That’s a good thing,” said the Italian, who came over this season from Team Sky. “I feel really, really lucky to be here and to take this win.”
Take your pick on the expert opinions on Ewan’s botched sprint: “Tried to get cheeky” or “silly tactics” or go with Ewan’s personal assessment that he “stuffed it.” All apply, an epic fail all the way round.
After his smart tactics in winning stage two, we complimented Ewan on his patience in waiting until the perfect moment to launch his sprint. Today, he made the ultimate sprinter’s mistake: he hesitated. In the final few hundred meters of a full-gas sprint, Ewan was weighing his options, running possible scenarios, evaluating the situation, changing his plans for victory.
Change, they did. No gift for Edmondson, no second win for Ewan. “I’m pretty disappointed actually. My team gave me an absolutely perfect lead-out, but I really stuffed it up the end,” said Ewan. “It was a bit of a head wind and I didn’t want to go too early. I waited a little bit too long, and Elia got the jump on me. He was too quick to bring him back.”
The ancient baseball payer Satchel Page would have provided good consult for Ewan. It was Page who uttered now the famous line: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” Yes, and his name was Elia Viviani.