Caleb Ewan crashes in dramatic Giro d’Italia finish-line sprint on opening day

Australian sprint star Caleb Ewan has suffered a dramatic and painful crash in the final metres of the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia while battling for victory in Hungary.

Ewan had almost emptied his tank of energy as he tried to make his final attack over the last 100 metres on the demanding final climb to the finish in Visegrad on Friday.

But still threatening in third place while trying to take victory and the leader’s pink jersey, he clipped the back wheel of Eritrean Biniam Girmay’s, which sent him crashing down hard across the road at high speed.

The Dutch stage favourite Mathieu van der Poel went on to pip Girmay for victory while Lotto-Soudal’s Ewan, with his top torn around his left shoulder, eventually rose groggily, remounted and grimaced as he needed assistance to struggle across the line in 76th place, 64 seconds behind.

It was more grim Grand Tour news for the Sydneysider, who broke his collarbone in a crash on the third stage of the Tour de France in 2021, knocking him out of the race.

Friday’s crash, though, was thankfully not as serious, with his team reporting: “Apart from several abrasions, Caleb came away without any severe injuries and will take the start in the individual time trial tomorrow.”

Ewan gingerly crossed the finish line with cuts and grazes on his body following the crash.(Getty Images: Tim de Waele)

But his spill seemed a cruel reward for the 27-year-old, who may not have won his 12th Grand Tour stage anyway but who had still performed magnificently to even be in the podium picture after a 5.7km final ascent which proved far too much for all the other best sprinters.

Yet it was a finale to the 195km stage from Budapest perfectly designed for Alpecin-Fenix’s brilliant all-rounder van der Poel, who, on his Giro debut, timed his thrust perfectly to add the pink jersey to the yellow he wore early in his first Tour de France last summer.

After more than four and a half hours in the saddle, Spain’s Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) capitalised on Ewan’s fall to take third place.

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“It’s incredible after the yellow jersey to have the pink and now we will see what the time trial brings tomorrow,” said van der Poel, grandson of the late French cycling hero Raymond Poulidor.

He may well win Saturday’s 9.2km effort against the clock in Budapest too.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old trailblazer Girmay, the first black African rider to win a one-day classic earlier in the season at Gent Wevelgem, nearly became the first to win a Grand Tour stage too as he collected the first white jersey for best young rider.

“I’ve never done a sprint like it,” he said.

“For 250, 300 metres I am at the limit. I fully accept he was stronger than me today but I’m really happy.”

The up-hill finish did create some small time gaps, with 2019 champion Richard Carapaz, Wilco Kelderman and Bauke Mollema among those to pick up four seconds on the other general classification contenders, including Aussie team BikeExchange-Jayco’s British leader Simon Yates.

2020 Giro runner-up Jai Hindley, in 28th, was also four seconds down, two places ahead of Australian compatriot Richie Porte.

AAP

Reference-www.abc.net.au

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