SISTERON, France — Australian rider Caleb Ewan slalomed through the bunch to win a sprint finish and claim the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday.
Julian Alaphilippe held onto the yellow jersey that he claimed with a dramatic stage victory a day earlier.
With about 100 metres to go, Ewan trailed five other riders before slinging himself through a narrow slice of road near the advertising barriers. Then -- after more than five hours in the saddle -- Ewan darted to the left to overcome Sam Bennett and claim his fourth career stage win in the Tour by more than a wheel.
“I found my way through the wheels,” Ewan said. “Coming from behind, it’s a bit of a risk, but I found my way along the barrier and I came with a lot of speed and it worked in the end.”
Ewan’s top speed in the finale reached 68.8 kph (42.7 mph).
Bennett crossed second and Nizzolo came third -- both with the same time as Ewan.
Ewan, who rides for the Lotto-Soudal team, won three stages last year, including the coveted final leg on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Alaphilippe crossed with the main pack and retained a four-second lead over Adam Yates, with Marc Hirschi still third overall, seven seconds behind.
After the opening two stages in the Mediterranean city of Nice, the race veered inland over a 198-kilometre (123-mile) route to Sisteron, which is labeled the “Gateway to Provence.”
Hugo Houle, a support rider for the Astana Pro Team, finished 16th in Monday's stage and moved up six spots to 115th overall. The 29-year-old from Sainte-Perpetue, Que., finished 91st in last year's Tour.
The route featured four minor climbs before a flat finish suited to sprinters.
Three French riders -- Anthony Perez, Jérôme Cousin and Benoît Cosnefroy -- broke away at the start and established an advantage of nearly three minutes.
Cousin then launched a solo attack midway through the stage and created a lead of more than four minutes.
Cousin was finally caught by the main pack with 16 kilometres remaining.
Perez, meanwhile, crashed into his team car on a high-speed descent after puncturing a tire and broke his left collarbone -- forcing him to abandon the race.
It was an especially unfortunate accident for Perez, since he had already gained enough points to don the polka-dot mountains classification jersey after the stage.
Stage 4 on Tuesday features the race’s first uphill finish with a climb to Orcières-Merlette that should force the overall favourites -- such as defending champion Egan Bernal -- into action.
The three-week Tour, which was postponed from its usual July slot due to the coronavirus, ends in Paris on Sept. 20.
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The Associated Press