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TOUR REPORT STAGE 11

CHÂTELAILLON-PLAGE > POITIERS

Stage 11 promised and proved to be another for the sprinters. Sam Bennett began as the favourite given his victory on Stage 10 and an Irish connection to the town at the finish line. The most recent Tour stage winner in Poitiers was none other than Irish legend, Sean Kelly, who out-sprinted Gerrie Knetemann in 1978. Big boots to fill for Sam, who rode on Kelly’s development team as a youngster and comes from the same town.

Bar a few minor crashes the first 166 kilometres were mostly peaceful. Although conditions were again windy, the peloton was always within reach of any breakaways and no large splits seemed to threaten them. A last-ditch attempt to break by Lukas Pöstlberger at six kilometres from the finish was chased down by Bob Jungels, allowing the sprint teams to fight things out.

The final kilometre proved chaotic, with lead-out trains and nervous sprinters pushing the boundaries of sportsmanship. Caleb Ewan sealed his second victory of this year's Tour, by a wheel rim's from Bennett.

While Ewan was overjoyed, his triumph has been overshadowed somewhat by the dangerous sprint of former green jersey winner, Peter Sagan. The three-time world champion was relegated from second place to last in his group after he attempted to ride through a gap that did not exist, instead contacting Wout van Aert unnecessarily. A costly move for Sagan as he loses points he desperately needed to contend for the green jersey.

There was hardly anything to trouble the general classification today and no pitfalls for Bahrain McLaren to avoid, beyond the ever-present worry of a crash just outside the three-kilometre mark. Sonny Colbrelli was once again invaluable in keeping Mikel Landa safe and well positioned. Wout Poels, recovering day-by-day from a crash on stage 1, even showed his face at the front of the bunch – albeit briefly. Landa will be hoping the Dutchman is back to his imperious best when the race reaches the mountains on Friday.

Thanks to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race. See more of their work on Instagram @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto.