Caleb Ewan (AUS) who wore the white jersey of best young rider in the first few stages emerged as the best sprinter of the 2019 Tour de France. In the same category, 20-year-old Lorena Wiebes (NED) dominates this year. London awaits them both.
Road cycling isn’t predominantly an urban sport but one week apart, Paris and London welcome some of the world’s top riders. The capital city of the United Kingdom hosted the Grand Départ of the 2007 Tour de France that remains in the memory as an extraordinary event and one that opened the doors of the French event to the Anglophone world. One week after he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins rang the bell of the London 2012 Olympics wearing a yellow shirt. The Prudential RideLondon – Surrey Classic is an Olympic heritage. Since 2013, it has become natural to race in London one week after finishing the Tour in Paris, and the inaugural winner was a Frenchman, Arnaud Démare.
Caleb Ewan is a candidate to win on The Mall after capturing the most prestigious victory for a sprinter on the Champs-Elysées. But Démare, Sam Bennett, Elia Viviani and Alexander Kristoff, the winner of the Prudential RideLondon – Surrey Classic in 2017, aren’t prepared to let the young Australian rule their world. As he was the first – and eventually only – sprinter to win two stages on the 16th day of racing the Tour de France in Nîmes, reporters asked him if he had become the best sprinter in the world.
“If you look at the results, I’m most the consistent sprinter but I’m not going to say that I’m the best because my opponents are not easy to beat”, the Lotto Soudal rider replied. “I always have to think of how I can beat them. I don’t dominate. I have to use tactics. It shows the depth of sprinting in the UCI WorldTour. Before, there was Marcel Kittel or Mark Cavendish who’d win four or five stages of the Tour de France. Now, you really don’t know who’s gonna win the sprint whereas in the past you could be sure that Cavendish would win. It’s more exciting to watch now I suppose.”
After he claimed his third victory in Paris, Ewan was asked the same question again. “I’m still not going to say that I’m the best sprinter in the world”, he answered, “but I’ve proven that I’m the best sprinter of this Tour de France and it makes me proud of myself and my team-mates who can never take it easy because they have a hard time helping me get through the mountains.”
In the past few years, the best sprinter of the Tour, Cavendish, Kittel or André Greipel was the winner of the first sprints, but Ewan had to be patient and took his turn in the second half of the race after Mike Teunissen, Viviani, Peter Sagan, Dylan Groenewegen and Wout van Aert imposed themselves.
Something has also changed in sprinting in the UCI Women’s WorldTour this year and it’ll be interesting to see the experienced riders Marianne Vos, Chloé Hosking and Kirsten Wild being challenged by the up and coming Lorena Wiebes on the streets of London this Saturday. At the age of 20, the Dutch girl from Parkhotel-Valkenburg team is the most successful female cyclist this year. She began her brilliant season in March by winning the Nokere Koerse before finishing second to Wild at Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields. She went on to claim stage 1 at the ASDA Tour de Yorkshire, all three stages and the GC at the Tour of Chongming Island UCI Women’s WorldTour in May. She won the SPAR Flanders Diamond Tour and outsprinted Vos on two major occasions in June to win the European Games in Minsk and her first Elite title at the Dutch national championship. She took stage 3 and the points classification at the BeNe Ladies Tour in July.
“I thought I’d break through this year, but I was far from thinking that I’d compete with the fastest riders, I’ve already exceeded my expectations this season”, Wiebes declared.
The world of the sprinters is definitely different in 2019 but the new faces don’t take anything for granted.