Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) inadvertently found himself drawn into the polemic surrounding Vincenzo Nibali’s exclusion from the Vuelta a España on Sunday evening, but the Australian has insisted that he is the victim of a case of mistaken identity.
Nibali was expelled from the Vuelta when the helicopter camera filmed him being towed by Astana directeur sportif Alexandre Shefer as he chased back on after coming down in a large crash in the peloton with 30 kilometres left in stage two.
Shortly after the stage and before the commissaires had announced their decision to expel Nibali from the race, the Sicilian had identified Ewan as the culprit, a claim he repeated in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport at his team hotel in Estepona.
“The crash was Caleb Ewan’s fault,” Nibali said. “He made a crazy, bad move. Go and watch that clip too, and you’ll understand why riders got injured. But he’ll stay in the race. I was looking for him while I was waiting for my replacement bike, but fortunately for him he had already set off again. I had something to say to him.”
However Ewan denied that he had caused the crash when speaking to reporters ahead of stage three in Mijas on Monday, pointing out that he had been at the rear of the peloton at the time and had seen riders crash ahead of him.
“I was at the back of the bunch. All I saw were the riders crashing in front of me and I don’t know what happened at the front or who it was who caused the crash,” Ewan said.
Having been involved in a high-profile crash in the finale of stage two of the Tour de Pologne earlier in the month, Ewan will be mindful of the consequences of earning a reputation for dangerous riding in the peloton and he expressed disappointment that a rider of Nibali’s stature had cast such aspersions upon him in public.
“It’s not very nice. If he’s going to say something, he should get the story straight before he says it because it’s unfair on me. I think a lot of people will read that and think that I caused the crash but like I said, I was at the back of the bunch, so I had nothing to do with the crash. It’s not very nice,” Ewan said.
“If he has a problem with me or he thinks I did it, he should come and clear things up with me first instead of going to the media and saying ‘Caleb did this’. I think if you’re going to make a big call like that, saying that someone a crash like that, you should get your story straight first.”
Nibali was involved in a similar incident at last month’s Tour de France, when he initially accused Chris Froome (Team Sky) of bringing him down in a crash in the finale of stage six to Le Havre. He retracted his accusation shortly afterwards when Froome paid an impromptu visit to the Team Sky bus to discuss the matter.
“I’m not mad at him but I think it’s not professional from him, a guy who’s done a lot in the sport. A lot of people listen to what he says,” Ewan said. “It’s not for him to say it and especially because it’s not true.”
The neo-professional Ewan is making his Grand Tour debut at this Vuelta, and he was hoping to be in the mix in the likely bunch finish at the end of stage three in Malaga.
“It depends on how hard they race on the climb because that could make it a tough stage but hopefully I can get over it and be there for the bunch sprint at the end,” he said.