Australian National Team on top step at first round of Nations Cup
Australia's up-and-coming under-23 rider Caleb Ewan has scored his second big victory of the season - in Europe - by taking out the opening race of the Nations Cup at La Côte Picarde in France.
The youngster, who is part of the revamped Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy squad but was representing the Australian National Team at the U23 race had to scrape himself off the ground after crashing inside the final 15km before he could even consider the win into the finishing town of Mers-les-Bains. The Australian team ensured Ewan made his way back into the bunch before placing him in the right spot leading into the final climb with 10km to go. It's from there Ewan jumped across the 25-second gap to bridge to the leading group.
Ewan performed a long sprint to take victory at the end of the 172.2km race in 3:59:52 to notch up his second win from two starts. Ewan most recently took out the Grand Prix Palio del Recioto earlier this month in similarly dominant fashion when the sprint opened up.
"First Nations cup race and win today! Thanks to all the boys who rode so hard to set me up! Also to the support staff for their hard work!," Ewan tweeted.
The team lined-up with a powerful five-man team that included Mitch Mulhern, Damien Howson, Campbell Flakemore and Adam Phelan who took to controlling the race after the day's breakaway stretched their advantage to over two minutes with approximately 50km still to race.
Howson, the current under-23 national time trial champion and bronze-medallist from the U23 World TT Championships in 2012 took to the front along with Mulhern in order to bring the race back into the fold for the final finishing laps around the 18km circuit.
Ewan's crash may have seen the chance of victory dissapear up the road but the cool-headed winner of the 2013 Bay Series Criteriums made his way back into the bunch before Phelan and Flakemore took over the role of protecting their leader heading into the day's final ascent.
An impressive jump from the eventual race winner saw him bridge to the leading group and once at the front, it appeared his win would be certain. His performance at GP Palio del Recioto meant he would be the favourite for the win and while he was forced to the front with 500m to go he bided his time before unleashing a winning kick. Ewan bested Belgian Sean de Bie and Great Britain's Simon Yates for the win while his teammate Flakemore capped out another successful day by finishing in 9th-place, sprinting in with the group that finished 22 seconds in arrears.
"Congrats @CalebEwan for winning la cote Picarde today #whatcanthedo #Unreal, Happy with my ride for 9th.Team was super strong again today," tweeted Flakemore.
"This is another great result from the team, a fantastic win and a fourth podium from four starts thus far," said Head Coach James Victor to Cycling Australia.