Caleb Ewan to make Tour de France debut in 2018

Mitchelton-Scott team to find room for sprinter and lead-out men in eight-man squad

Caleb Ewan will make his Tour de France debut in 2018, with the Mitchelton-Scott team finding room for the sprinter in their plans despite a recent general classification focus in the Grand Tours.

The 23-year-old sprinter turned pro with the Australian team in 2015 and won a stage at the Vuelta a España that year. He then did the Giro d'Italia in 2016 without a win but returned to the Italian Grand Tour this year and picked up a victory on stage 7.

It is understood that Ewan had been keen to ride this year's Tour de France, only for the team to have other plans, but he will finally get his chance next July.

"If there's any race that you want to do when you're growing up as an aspiring young cyclist it would be the Tour de France. I've been itching to get there ever since I turned professional," Ewan said.

"I think that next year I will be definitely be ready for it. It will be the fourth Grand Tour that I have started and after getting stage wins at both the Giro and the Vuelta the aim is to keep that going into the Tour and try to get a stage win there."

When the Australian team started out as GreenEdge in 2012, they were known as a team comprised mainly of stage hunters, with the likes of Michael Matthews and Simon Gerrans chipping in alongside a string of team time trial wins. In the past couple of seasons, however, the team have become more general classification oriented with the emergence of Esteban Chaves and the Yates twins, Adam and Simon.

They will no doubt send at least one of the three GC riders to the Tour in 2018 but, despite a reduction in Grand Tour team sizes from nine to eight, directeur sportif Matt White suggests there will be room for a 'sprint train'. Ewan's partnership with lead-out man Luka Mezgec has gone from strength to strength this season, while Roger Kluge has also played an important role at times.

"We know that Caleb is ready for the Tour. It is going to be a learning experience and we will be supporting him 100 per cent. He has won at the Giro and the Vuelta and the natural progression is that now he gets a crack at the Tour de France," White said.

"It has been a very deliberate process with Caleb regarding getting to the Tour, he has been hungry for it the last couple of seasons and it has been a three year development to get him to this level where we feel he is ready for it. Caleb is 23 year's old now, he has the experience of competing and winning in a Grand Tour and also the confidence that comes from winning WorldTour races with some consistency and his program for 2018 will be one that leads up to the Tour in July.

"It's the Tour de France and there will be immense competition for every stage, but Caleb is ready for that and with the additions we have made to our sprint train over the last couple of seasons we have the speed and the strength in depth to get him in a position to fight for the win."

On paper, there are eight flat stages at the 2018 Tour, though included in that are the cobbles on stage 9 and the potential crosswinds and Classics-type conditions elsewhere in the first week.

The opportunities for the sprinters are concentrated in the first week, with five or six potential opportunities before the first rest day after stage 9. After that, the route becomes mountainous and it remains to be seen whether Ewan can make it all the way to Paris to sprint on the Champs Elysées on the final day.

The first yellow jersey of the 2018 race is likely to go to a sprinter, with a flat stage in the Vendée, and Ewan is set to face fiercer competition than he ever has in a Grand Tour, with Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria, and Andre Greipel all set to lock horns.

"Obviously, the Tour is a unique event and I am looking at it as another step up, but I feel that I am ready for it and with the success we have been having within the sprint train we have speed and versatility for different types of finishes," Ewan said.

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