Ewan and Kluge partnership off to winning start

Orica-Scott sprinter backs up People’s Choice Classic title

Caleb Ewan shrugged off the pressure and the fact he was racing with lead-out man Roger Kluge for the first time to boss the finish of the Tour Down Under's pre-race People's Choice Classic and get Orica-Scott's race started in winning fashion.

Speaking a few days out from the race, Ewan had suggested it could take the better part of six months to form a winning partnership with Kluge. In hindsight, it could be suggested the 22-year-old was bluffing, but his post-race comments, along with that of sports director Matt White, tell a different story.

"It was the first time I've raced with Roger obviously and he dropped me off in perfect position and it was really the first time I had to touch the wind really. It worked out perfectly," a relieved Ewan told reporters after his trip to the podium for the winner's jersey.

"I don't think it usually happens like that. All I had to do really was to follow him. In the last couple of laps he was sitting behind me so I got a better ride up the front," he added of Kluge's importance to his stage win. "I was surprised he got through because it was so messy behind me at the end so he did super well and came around me with a lap to go and led me out perfectly."

Ewan's victory was a length and a half over Bora-Hansgrohe's Sam Bennett with world champion Peter Sagan in third. While Ewan has gotten the better of Sagan in the past, at the 2015 Vuelta, confidence is a sprinter's best friend and with winning evidence of a new lead-out partnership, Ewan is primed for Tuesday's stage 1 into Lyndoch. The site of his stage win last year.

"It is so important to get the week off to a good start and a sprint like that gives me a whole lot of confidence going into the tour next week which is probably the main thing is getting that confidence going through to the next races," he explained.

"Coming into the race no one really knows how anyone else is going so I am just happy to get one over him at the start. It gives you a whole lot of confidence going into the next stages and, as a sprinter, that is what you really need."

Speaking to Cyclingnews as his riders made their way back to the race headquarters at the Hilton, White explained that Kluge's recent stint on the track saw the team reshuffle its lead-out for the race with immediate winning effect.

"We are going to tinker with our lead out here this week. We put Roger last, it worked quite well, and normally Roger is going to come in as the second last guy but because he has come fresh from the Rotterdam Six Day he has a little bit of top end and we utilised it a bit tonight," said White.

"I haven't seen the footage well enough to comment on their lead out but a few teams went early today and I think our guys timed that run in pretty well."

With a day to rest up, and enjoy teammate Esteban Chaves' 27th birthday, Ewan and Orica-Scott turn their attention to stage 1 and repeating its winning lead-out combination.

"It is good sign going the next sprint," added Ewan before making his exit with the ever-increasing noise of the podium his cue.

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