Lotto Soudal’s Australian rider Caleb Ewan snatched victory on stage 11 of the Tour de France as the sprinters went toe to toe in a thrilling finish.
Seven-time green jersey winner Peter Sagan crossed second but was relegated to last and docked 13 sprint points for muscling past Wout van Aert late on.
Irishman Sam Bennett was promoted into second and leads the points classification by 68 points from Sagan.
Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglic remains 21 seconds clear in yellow.
“It was very, very hectic,” said Ewan after Wednesday’s win.
“I knew to keep calm and wait for the right gap to open – and it did, quite late.
“I did a big throw and then you’re basically looking down at the ground, so I wasn’t sure I won.”
The stage was started by former French rider Francois Lemarchand, in place of race director Christian Prudhomme, who is quarantined after testing positive for coronavirus.
Bennett had already strengthened his grip on the green jersey when he claimed second spot behind breakaway leader Matthieu Ladagnous at the intermediate sprint.
Even so early in the Tour’s three-week itinerary, the pressure seemed to tell on Sagan and his team after Landagnous was swallowed up and the finish loomed.
Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate Lukas Postlberger shot off the front with 6km to go in an attempt to disrupt their rivals’ plans before the Slovak barged Van Aert to clear his route in the tightly contested finish.
His manoeuvre was subsequently punished by the race judges to leave him with it all to do to overhaul Bennett as the race heads for the mountains.
The peloton was also reduced in number with Astana’s Ion Izaguirre suffering a nasty crash in the final 30km and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Gregor Muhlberger feeling increasingly unwell at the back of the pack. Both subsequently abandoned.
Thursday’s stage features four categorised climbs as the race takes a 218km route from Chauvigny to Sarran in the heart of the France.
Stage 11 result
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus/Lotto Soudal) 4hrs 00mins 01secs
2. Sam Bennett (Ire/Deceuninck-Quick-Step) Same time
3. Wout van Aert (Bel/Jumbo-Visma)
4. Bryan Coquard (Fra/B&B Hotels-Vital Concept)
5. Clement Venturini (Fra/AG2R La Mondiale)
6. Mads Pedersen (Den/Trek-Segafredo)
7. Luka Mezgec (Slo/Mitchelton-Scott)
8. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra/Israel Start-up Nation)
9. Olivier Naesen (Bel/AG2R La Mondiale)
10. Ryan Gibbons (SA/NTT Pro)
General classification after stage 11
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) 46hrs 15mins 24secs
2. Egan Bernal (Col/Ineos Grenadiers) +21secs
3. Guillaume Martin (Fra/Cofidis) +28secs
4. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R-La Mondiale) +30secs
5. Nairo Quintana (Col/Arkea-Samsic) +32secs
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) Same time
7. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE-Team Emirates) +44secs
8. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1mins 02secs
9. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana) +1mins 15secs
10. Mikel Landa (Spa/Bahrain McLaren) +1mins 42secs