Ewan beaten agonisingly in Giro sprint

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Caleb Ewan has been left crestfallen by the narrowest of defeats on the sixth stage of the Giro d'Italia after an exhilarating blanket finish featuring the race's three fastest men.

The Australian flyer looked as if he was going to pick up his first victory of the race after five hours in the saddle from Palmi to Scalea in southern Italy on Thursday as he swept past British great Mark Cavendish just before the line.

But on his outside, French sprinter Arnaud Demare swooped and with one final 'bike throw' lunge towards the line, edged to his second win in consecutive days in the closest of finishes to the 192km stage.

It could hardly have been closer. There was so little to choose between the top two that neither man dared celebrate until the official news came through that Groupama-FDJ's Demare had nicked the decision after a study of the photo-finish.

Cavendish, already a stage winner, was half a bike length down in third.

Sydneysider Ewan could find no consolation in defeat. When a reporter suggested to him at the end that he was at least showing his excellent sprinting form for the rest of the race, he could only sigh: "Yeah, but second ... it's not so good.

"Yeah, disappointing. Super hard and super messy (in the finish) but Demare was just faster."

After time to reflect, he was a bit more sanguine about the loss, quoted on his team Lotto-Soudal's website as saying: "I just got beaten by an inch ... we need to take away from today that it could have gone our way as well.

"The shape and the team are there and, of course, I am keen on taking revenge."

It was, though, another deflating setback for Ewan, who has had a tough time in the four sprint stages contested so far as he seeks to take his tally of Giro stage wins to six.

He suffered a fall in the denouement on the first day in Hungary, was out of position when he next had a chance on the third stage and got dropped in the mountains before the bunch finish on Wednesday.

Demare, the three-time national road race champion, looked in scintillating form as he took his seventh career stage win on the Giro - more than any won by a French rider.

"It was very tight. I had the feeling I had won but it was hot so I waited for the photo finish," Demare said.

"A win is sometimes decided by very little. ... I only had 100 metres to overhaul Cavendish. I threw my bike on the line and it made the difference.

"Many people underestimate me but it's my 86th career victory today. It's wonderful," he added.

Spain's Juan Pedro Lopez, of Trek-Segafredo, maintained his overall 39-second lead over Lennard Kamna with no changes to the general classification picture, as INEOS's Richie Porte remains top Australian in ninth place, two minutes four seconds behind.

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