Caleb Ewan sprinted to victory in stage eight of the Giro d'Italia, bouncing back from a frustrating first week at the race.
The Australian, who rides for Lotto Soudal, had to settle for finishes of second, third and fourth in sprints so far – but he was not to be denied in Saturday's 239-kilometre ride from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro, the longest stage of the race.
After a technical descent, three men emerged for the frantic finish with Ewan coming out on top ahead of Elia Viviani and points jersey holder Pascal Ackermann.
It is Ewan's second career Giro win, having won a stage in 2017, and third at a Grand Tour given he also has a Vuelta a Espana victory to his name.
All of the main general classification contenders came in with the peloton ahead of a key time trial on Sunday.
A two-man breakaway of Marco Frapporti and Damiano Cima, who once led by over six minutes, was hauled in by the peloton with 32km remaining.
Three men then made their push for victory, but Francois Bidard, Louis Vervaeke and Giulio Ciccone – who extended his lead in the King of the Mountains standings during the stage – were all caught with 6km to go.
That left a sprint finish, with the top three finishers emerging well clear of the pack. Ackermann had the best set up from his Bora-Hansgrohe team, but Ewan was perfectly placed behind him to pounce, passing the German before holding off a late challenge from Viviani.
"Determination and the help of the team made me a winner," said Ewan. "We've been trying for seven days to get this win. I'm just so happy.
"I wanted to be first in the last corner but it was still a long way away so it worked better to get out of Ackermann's wheel. I knew I had a good kick and I went around him."
ACKERMANN ADVANTAGE INCREASES
Despite losing out to Ewan at the finish, Ackermann's third place extended his lead in the battle for the Maglia Ciclamino.
His nearest challenger, Arnaud Demare, was sixth, and while Ewan moved closer into third, Ackermann holds leads of 52 and 59 points respectively over the pair.
Race leader Valerio Conti, meanwhile, was happy to stay out of trouble in what was a tricky finish.
“It was a hard finale because of dangerous downhills," he said. "But I have a big team and I was well protected. I think I will keep the Maglia Rosa also [on Sunday] after the time trial."
1. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 5:43:32
2. Elia Viviani (Deceuninck - Quick Step) + same time
3. Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) "
4. Fabio Sabatini (Deceuninck - Quick Step) "
5. Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) "
1. Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) 35:13:06
2. Jose Rojas (Movistar) +1:32
3. Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani CSF) +1:41
1. Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) 150
2. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 98
3. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 91
King of the Mountains
1. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) 32
2. Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) 18
3. Antonio Pedrero (Movistar) 18
Sunday's crucial stage nine is likely to shake up the general classification as the riders take part in a 35km time trial from Riccione to San Marino, which includes an uphill climb to the finish.
19. Juni 2019
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