Just one week after Australian cycling prodigy Caleb Ewan netted not one, but two Australian U23 national titles, the New South Wales native from the Southern Highlands, showed he is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the UCI’s WorldTour heavyweights after a third-place sprint finish at the Tour Down Under’s People’s Choice Classic on Sunday night in Adelaide.
Ewan won the U23 Australian national criterium last week in Ballarat before dominating a sprint finish to win the 132.6km U23 men's road race just two days later. However the 2013 Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic-winner was not expected to fight for a podium spot in his first Tour Down Under appearance.
"It was really tough today, I really had to fight for position," said Ewan, who finished fourth in the 2013 UCI U23 Road Worlds. "A lot of these Europeans don't know who I am and just think I'm a little punter coming into the race. It's natural they don't give me much respect, but now hopefully I've showed myself to them."
"I know I can be up there in the pointy end of the race, so it just gives me a bit more confidence for the next few days," he said.
Ewan, a much-heralded talent who signed with Orica-GreenEdge to a pre-contract in October, made his WorldTour debut with the UniSA composite team before returning to U23 competition. With an estimated 95,000 fans in attendance, Ewan says the step up in competition was rewarding, but also a bit daunting.
"I'm actually a little bit frightened now – they're amazing, those guys," said Ewan regarding his debut WorldTour showdown with eventual winner Marcel Kittel and runner-up Andre Greipel, himself a 14-time Tour Down Under stage winner. "I tried to kick and he (Kittel) was just riding away from me. Wow – it's crazy."
The 19-year-old former junior World Omnium Champion explained his concerns a bit further, "I have to (go against) them in a year and that's the level that I'm going to be expected to sprint at."