Caleb Ewan's first career Tour de France stage win came by the narrowest of margins as the Lotto-Soudal rider edged out Dylan Groenewegen by the width of a wheel rim in Toulouse.
The 25-year-old Australian, riding the Tour for the first time, came around Groenewegen after the Jumbo-Visma rider launched his sprint with 200 metres of the 167km stage 11 from Albi remaining and took it by the narrowest of margins.
Ewan, who has stage wins in the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España on his palmarès, had made no secret of the fact a Tour victory was what he craved the most.
"I can't believe it," he said. "I've been close in the last four sprints and my team never lost faith in me and I never lost faith in my sprinting. I knew if everything came together I could be fastest on the day and today I showed that.
"Since childhood there is no other race I've dreamt of winning. Watching in Australia, the Tour seems so far away - I can't believe I'm even here but to win a stage is a dream come true."
Yellow jersey holder Julian Alaphilippe and defending champion Geraint Thomas finished safely in the pack to ensure there was no change at the top of the general classification, in which Alaphilippe leads Thomas by 1min 12secs as the race heads to the Pyrenees on Thursday.
Thomas' Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal finished 13th on the stage to stay a further four seconds behind Thomas in third place.
After Tuesday's rest day and Monday's chaotic finish in crosswinds, Wednesday's stage was a much more sedate affair as the peloton followed the Tarn west out of Albi.
A four-man breakaway including serial escapee Stephane Rossetto of Cofidis was kept on a short leash, with their advantage never quite reaching three minutes, a gap which began to tumble as Toulouse came into view.
Threatened crosswinds never materialised in the finale, although there was a little late drama as a crash held up Movistar's Nairo Quintana and Trek-Segafredo's Richie Porte, who needed five kilometres to be paced back onto the pack.
However, Porte's team-mate Giulio Ciccone – who wore the yellow jersey for two days after finishing second on stage six to La Planche des Belles Filles – was not so lucky as he limped home with injuries that saw him lose his 10th place in the general classification.
Wanty Gobert's Aime De Gendt went solo from the breakaway with 10 kilometres left, pulling more than 40 seconds clear, but he was reeled in on the long drag up into town as the sprint trains moved to the fore.
Just as De Gendt had made his move, another spill in the peloton saw a key member of Ewan's Lotto-Soudal lead-out train Jesper De Buyst land in a ditch, but Ewan would instead surf the wheels.
Mike Teunissen, winner of the opening stage in Brussels, led out his Jumbo-Visma team-mate Groenewegen but after he pulled off, Ewan had the power to come around the Dutchman in the nick of time.
The next moves in the battle for yellow could come on Thursday's 209.5km stage 12, which takes the riders from Toulouse to Bagnères-de-Bigorre via climbs of the Peyresourde and the Hourquette a'Ancizan.
Ewan wins stage 11 at the Tour!
He's done it, Caleb Ewan has finally won a stage at the Tour de France after the pint-sized Aussie went shoulder-to-shoulder with Dylan Groenewegen in a hard-fought sprint finish. A few doubts at first, but the commissaires have confirmed the Lotto-Soudal man won the stage by the narrowest of margins. Ewan, unsurprisingly, looks absolutely delighted. Elia Viviani took third spot while Peter Sagan was fourth.
By the way, that fourth-placed finish means Sagan has now finished in the top 10 in eight out of the 10 road stages at this year's race. And that, dear readers, is why he's the best all-rounder of a generation.
Other than Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ, Fra) who edged into the top 10 following Giulio Ciccone's crash which caused him to lose over 12min, there are no changes at the top of the general classification after the remainder of the protagonists finished safely in the bunch.
1km to go
Jumbo-Visma, Quick-Step and Sunweb all jostling for position on the front.
2km to go
Daniel Oss is pulling hard on the front on behalf of Peter Sagan.
2.5km to go
Dylan Groenewegen is well positioned on third wheel. Elia Viviani, Caleb Ewan, Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet are also present.
3.5km to go
Just 500 metres away from the 3km to go marker. The pace is whipping up.
4km to go
Alexander Kristoff is making himself visible near the front of the peloton, perhaps giving himself some sliding space on this short drag up. Aimé De Gendt is caught.
5km to go
Jumbo-Visma take over the chase on the front. A slight rise now; once over the top it will be a very fast descent towards the finish line.
5.5km to go
Aimé De Gendt's lead drops to just 25sec.
6km to go
Aimé De Gendt is burying himself, but surely he cannot hold off the speeding bunch who look hungry for this stage win today.
6.5km to go
Lilian Calmejane and Stéphane Rossetto are caught by the peloton. Aimé De Gendt pushes on and has a 29sec lead.
7.5km to go
Jasper de Buyst(Lotto-Soudal, Bel) has just gone off road and into a ditch. That will leave Caleb Ewan a man down in the final run-in, but will it hamper his chances of the stage?
De Gendt attacks
Aimé De Gendt has rolled off the front of the break. The young Belgian is clearly after the €2,000 prize pot for the combativity award for the day.
10km to go
Bora-Hansgrohe has Peter Sagan positioned dead centre of the peloton. Can the three-time world champion take a second stage at this year's Tour, or will it be one for one of the pure sprinters?
12km to go
The peloton has almost all of the teams now riding in formation. The breakaway is within touching distance, just 22sec between the groups.
13km to go
The four-man breakaway is riding into a strong headwind now. Back in the peloton a number of the bee workers are calling it a day and gradually peeling off the back.
16km to go
The peloton is now very strung out as the pace increase at the front. All of the usual suspects are present at the head of the field: Jumbo-Visma, Deceuninck-Quick Step, Lotto-Soudal and Sunweb are there, while general classification squads Groupama-FDJ and Astana are making sure history does not repeat itself today following Monday's horror show. Ineos are there too. Obviously.
With today's stage expected to conclude in a sprint finish, race organisers have invoked the three-kilometre rule meaning that until the riders reach the 3,000 metre-to-go-mark, both the sprinters' teams and the general classification squads will be vying for position on the front.
20km to go
Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma, Ger), the four-time world time trial champion, is hunched over his handlebars now, pulling along the peloton. Just 49sec between the stage leaders and the main protagonists for both the stage win and the overall.
Ciccone takes a tumble
I'm hearing that Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo, Ita) also took quite a heavy knock after getting involved in that crash. The Italian is back in the saddle but is already over four minutes down on the maillot jaune.
The former Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders winner has been forced to quit the Tour de France following that crash a few minutes ago.
Quintana regians contact
Nairo Quintana, Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo, Aus) and Michael Woods (EF Education First, Can) have managed to get back on. The four-man breakaway, meanwhile, has seen its advantage drop to below a minute.
Quintana misses the split
He's looked in fine form, but the little Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar, Col) is now chasing back on after being caught out by a split.
Not looking great for Terpstra
The Dutchman is sat in the road and is receiving treatment. He's holding his collarbone. The race is suddenly very much on.
A number of riders from the peloton have hit the deck back. Niki Terpstra (Total-Direct Énergie, Hol), who broke his collarbone earlier this year in a crash at the Tour of Flanders, looks pretty bashed up. As the riders get back in their saddles to chase back on the mood appears to have changed quite dramatically.
Ineos move to the front
With the peloton starting to look a little nervy, Ineos have shunted their way to the head of the field with road captain Luke Rowe marshaling his troops.
Juan Antonio Flecha speaks . . .
"It's getting very windy."
35km to go
We're into the final 40km of this stage now. Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma and Lotto-Soudal all have number on the front as the wind-assisted peloton whizzes through yet another field of sunflowers.
The riders are tanking it now, just as they will be doing at the finish line which comes following a rapid descent off the final little lump that I mentioned at the start of the day. Caleb Ewan was speaking earlier on Eurosport and mentioned he has a 55-tooth chainring fitted today. Once that bad boy is up the speed, the little pocket rocket will be flying, but will the Lotto-Soudal sprinter be winning his first ever Tour de France stage in Toulouse this afternoon?
40km to go
The wind that was spoken about earlier today appears to have been little more than hot air. No sign of any strong breezes as yet. The four-man break continues to tap away on the front, 1min 20sec up the road from the peloton. A fairly regulation breakaway-sprint stage appears to be on the cards. Or will that change soon?
50km to go
And we are into the final 50km of today's 167km stage to Toulouse. The breakaway's advantage has dropped quite considerably to just 1min 10sec. As mentioned earlier there are a number of sections from hereon in that are fairly exposed, which may be why the teams are getting themselves organised back in the bunch. Nobody will want to be caught out by any crosswinds.
Matthews 'confirms' he will ride for Bol
Eurosport have just broadcast an interview they did with Michael Matthews this morning in which the Aussie fastman admitted that he would be riding as lead-out rider for the flying Dutchman Cees Bol once they reach Toulouse later this afternoon. Not 100 per cent if Matthews is telling the truth or if he's sandbagging, but I guess we will find out shortly.
60km to go
The leading quartet's advantage has dropped to below two minutes fro the first time since is escaped from the clutches of the peloton almost three hours ago.
Matthews off the boil?
Interesting to not that Michael Matthews (Sunweb, Aus) didn't bother contesting the intermediate sprint. The Australian who remains second in the points classification has not really been firing at this year's Tour and, according to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, his team is backing Cees Bol today.
"We expect a chaotic sprint for the fast men and then it is good to put everything on Cees. He has more speed and is a big boy who can position himself a little better," Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek said at the start in Albi today.
What does that do to the respective prize pots?
Viviani beats Sagan in intermediate
Yet again, Elia Viviani leads the peloton over the line ahead of Peter Sagan, while Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida, Ita) followed.
79.73km to go
Anthony Perez wins the intermediate sprint in Gaillac after the Frenchman held off Belgian rider Aimé De Gendt.
Next up the peloton, around 2min 40sec behind the leaders.
82.5km to go
Intermediate sprint incoming . . . but will the big boys contest the points once the breakaway has taken the first four spots?
90km to go
Anthony Perez adds another point to his tally in the mountains classification after cresting the Côte de Castelnau-de-Montmiral first.
Incidentally, Perez has now won €500 in prize money at this year's Tour, but where does that leave him in the overall standings?
100km to go
All calm out on the road as the stage leaders enter the Tarn region of France which is looking utterly splendid today. All gorges and exposed rocks as the riders weaving their way towards Toulouse under tree-lined roads. It looks almost as lovely as Epping Forest did early this morning. There has been no changes out on the road, the breakaway still leads by 2min 15sec.
112km to go
Dominique Arnould, a directeur sportif with the Total-Direct Énergie squad, has been speaking to France Televisions and he sounds pretty chuffed to have a man in the breakaway which leads the peloton by 2min 25sec.
"Finally Lilian Calmejane is in the front group! He’s been passive since the start of the Tour," Arnould said. "The day before yesterday, he tried to break away because the race was arriving in his hometown but it was today that we knew the breakaway would go from the gun. It’s good for his confidence to be up there.
"He had the green light today even though we believe that tomorrow the stage winner will come from the early breakaway. We mustn’t forget that he’s a Tour de France and a Vuelta stage winner."
120km to go
A pretty quite day so far. The four-man breakaway has increased its lead ever so slightly to 2min 38sec. The next point of interest is the category four Côte de Castelnau-de-Montmiral which tops out 89.73km from the finish and precedes the intermediate sprint by exactly 10km.
130km to go
Anthony Perez takes the two points – and €300 – available on offer atop the category three Côte de Tonnac.
— letourdata (@letourdata) July 17, 2019
138km to go
Ahead of the first categorised climb of the day where the first rider over the top will pocket €300, here's a quick look at what each team has won so far in prize money at the Tour. Despite leading the teams competition, I was quite surprised to see Movistar propping up the table.
The four-man breakaway's lead is holding at 2min 15sec.
148km to go
Jumbo-Visma have joined up with Deceuninck-Quick Step and Lotto-Soudal on the front of the peloton, Ineos and Movistar tucked in just behind as they protect their respective leaders.
155km to go
This quartet's advantage is just 2min 20sec, the peloton appears to be happy to let from go off up the road, but is keeping them on a fairly tight leash.
160km to go
Deceuninck-Quick Step and Lotto-Soudal have riders on the front of the peloton which is taking it easy as the four-man breakaway taps away around two minutes up the road. It looks lovely out in France today, but it's quite warm – 29.0°C at the start line and a little warmer later in the stage, the mercury rising to nudge the digits upwards of 32.0°C. As it stands there are cross-tailwinds, but not 100 per cent sure how that will impact, if at all, on the race once the riders reach the business end of the day. Stay tuned to find out!
164km to go
And straight from the off a local rider, Lilian Calmejane (Total-Direct Énergie, Fra), chipped off the front, taking with him a pair from Cofidis Solutions Crédits – Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) and Anthony Perez. De Gendt managed to find his way into the breakaway too, but not the De Gendt you are thinking about. Aimé De Gendt (Wanty-Gobert, Bel) was the fourth rider to catch the break which the peloton appears happy to let drift off up the road.
And they're off!
After riding through the 5km neutral section, race director Christian Prudhomme dropped the flag as the shiny red Skoda he calls home for three weeks each July hit KM0 where the race 'proper' gets under way.
Rolling, rolling, rolling . . .
The peloton is tapping away through the neutralised section, winding its way out of the stunning looking city of Albi. Interesting to note that Natnael Berhane (Cofidis Solutions Crédits, Eri), the Eritrea national road race champion, has managed to find a place on the front row.
The 28 year-old, as I'm sure you will recall, was in the breakaway on Monday. Incidentally, Berhane is in the final year of his current deal with Cofidis Solutions Crédits who are expected to be taking the step up to WorldTour level next season. I wonder if he's riding for a new contract?
Jumbo-Visma have cards to play . . .
Mike Teunissen says that he, Wout Van Aert & Dylan Groenewegen will play rock, paper, scissors to decide who sprints today.
He might be joking.
— Daniel Friebe (@friebos) July 17, 2019
Zabel a non-starter
Rick Zabel (Katusha-Alpecin, Ger) – yes, the son of six-time green jersey winner Erik – will not start today's stage. The 25-year-old German sprinter has been suffering with flu and spent Tuesday's rest day in bed but has failed to recover.
— Team KATUSHA ALPECIN (@katushacycling) July 17, 2019
Just six riders have abandoned the race leaving 18 teams with their full compliments of eight riders. For those interested, here are all the details of who has pulled the parachute and where they pulled the cord.
Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage 11 of the 106th edition of the Tour de France, the 167km run from Albi to Toulouse. Following Tuesday' rest day the riders have been handed a late-is start today with the racing 'proper' nut due to get under way until 12.45pm (BST), but I think they deserve that extra hour in bed now, don't they?
On the face of it, the rolling run towards Toulouse is a fairly benign stage, but if Monday's stage taught us anything it is that anything can happen out on the road. Indeed, in the final 50km of today's stage there are a number of exposed sections of road where if strong winds stir up, splits, echelons and all sorts of chaos could yet again be on the menu.
But what else is on the menu? For those hoping to add points to their accounts in the mountains classification not a lot, look . . .
. . . but there's a lot up for grabs in the race for the green jersey . . .
. . . which can only mean one thing: the orgainsers are expecting the stage to conclude in a bunch sprint finish. But who for the honours?
Elia Viviani(Deceuninck-Quick Step, Ita) or Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal, Aus) are the obvious picks thanks to the small climb – 1.4km at 4 per cent – in the final 5km. Both sprinters would, ordinarily, not be too concerned with such small pimples at the business end of the day which is what will, possibly, give them the slight edge over Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma, Hol) who is less comfortable on the climby stuff. However, Groenewegen's team-mate Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma, Bel) is a rider who will be less worried by the finish, could the Belgian tyro make it back-to-back stage wins? Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe, Svk), of course, will be there or thereabaouts while Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates, Nor) or his hugely talented lead-out man Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates, Bel) may also be eyeing the first stage win for their UAE Team Emirates squad.
Anyway, enough of the speculation. As I said, the stage will start at around 12.45pm – I'm off to grab a quick coffee, but will be back to keep you abreast of the happenings out on the road from 12.30pm.
Where are we?
Here's a reminder of the route of this year's Tour de France . . .
. . . and here are the details of each and every stage at this year's race:
As it stands . . .
Here's what the standings look like in the general, points, mountains, young rider and team classifications after 10 days of racing.